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Effectively Build Your Online Reputation

By Susan P. Joyce

Get Sourced to Get Hired

One of the most important keys to a successful job search today is to be visible -- in a positive way -- online. The reason it is a requirement for successful job search (and careers) today?

Understand that while you can strongly influence your your reputation online, you cannot control it. Google and the other search engines, social media and other websites, and other individuals can and will impact your reputation.

Today, ignoring your online reputation is not optional!

Because employers and recruiters are relentlessly searching the Internet in general and social media in particular:

  1. To find candidates qualified for their job openings.
  2. To learn more about the job applicants and job candidates who have applied for their jobs.
  3. To see how current employees are presenting themselves and their employer, which can great impact careers.

If you aren't paying attention, your job search and career can be negatively impacted:

  • Can YOU be found in a Google search for your name, or does someone else with the same name dominate the first page of search results?
  • Has someone else with the same name you use done something that causes potential employers to reject your application because they don't know you are not that person?
  • Did someone steal your identity, get caught by the cops committing a crime using your name, and ruin your job search because those charges show up in Google search results on your name?
  • Do you present an unprofessional image with cranky, unprofessional, or destructive behavior online?
  • Are you completely invisible online? No Facebook account or LinkedIn Profile? Employers will assume you are hiding something or out-of-date.

Fortunately, you have many options today to create and to manage your reputation. Unfortunately, if you aren't careful, you can hurt your standing as easily as you can help it. So, take care in what you do online.


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Be Smartly Visible Online

Avoid online crankiness and unprofessional behavior.

  • Ignore "trolls" (the people who seem to love to generate controversy with nasty comments). They aren't interested in rational discussions. They are "in your face" hoping to make you lose your cool.
  • Don't make cranky comments or shares in social media. You may think you are demonstrating your high intelligence and advanced grasp of a topic, but you are showing a side of yourself that indicates you could be hard to work with and hard to manage.
  • Leave out the references to politics, religion, and sports -- unless being an expert or opinionated on those topics is your profession.

Focus on being fround for the right terms for your job and profession. This means understanding and using the "best keywords" for you and your career in your online presence to draw the best opportunities to you.

This is called "Personal SEO (Search Engine Optimization)," and it is a new skill needed today, essential both for job search (and being visible in employer ATS systems) as well as in protecting and promoting your personal online reputation. Learn it now, for a shorter job search and a better career.

Learn more about Personal SEO in Job-Hunt's Guide to Personal SEO including the top 25 keywords for your job search.

2 Steps to Manage Your Online Reputation

An effective online presence requires both a very good offense as well as a defense.

First: A Good Offense Is Required

The key to a good offense today is being appropriately visible in Google search results. If you aren't easily found there, you are "invisible."

NOTE: Protecting your online privacy is good, but being invisible online is most definitely not good.

Being invisible means a much longer job search for most jobs.

If you aren't found in a Google search, negative assumptions are made about your understanding of how to leverage the internet for work and about how up-to-date you are with today's basic technology tools like email, search engines, and social media.

Use One Version of Your Name

Choose the "cleanest" version of your name for your professional persona, and then use that name consistently for your professional visibility, your professional social media profiles, your resume, your business cards, etc.

If you must rant online about sports, politics, religion, etc. do it with a different name (and email address). [See: Your Most Important Keywords.]

If possible, purchase your name as a .com domain name, and use it for your professional email, or just keep someone else from using it to confuse employers or to damage your online reputation.

Build Your Professional Visibility

Using your professional name (above), set up and maintain a good online presence in the usual sites. These provide credibility:

  1. LinkedIn.com

    Both powerful and effective as well as nearly unavoidable. This is the "happy hunting ground" for most recruiters seeking good job candidates. If you do nothing else, create and maintain a solid LinkedIn Profile. [More info: LinkedIn for Personal Online Reputation Management.]
  2. Twitter.com

    Like LinkedIn, Twitter has very good visibility with Google. So what you post on Twitter will be noted by Google, so post carefully. [More info: Twitter for Job Search.]
  3. Facebook.com

    Facebook is very popular and is searched often by employers and recruiters, but it is not really a "professional" social network. So, if you use it in association with the name you use in your job search, use it very carefully! No stupid photos/videos or nasty comments. [More info: Facebook for Job Search.]

Depending on your field, you should build professional visibility on other social media relevant to your profession.

Prove Your Expertise

Then, using your professional name, find ways to demonstrate your knowledge, expertise, and communications skills using these sites:

  1. LinkedIn Posts

    If you don't own your own blog, post carefully-written, thoughtful articles on LinkedIn. If LinkedIn's content editors like your post or it becomes popular, they may add it to LinkedIn's Pulse which will bring it much more visibility.
  2. SlideShare.net

    SlideShare is owned by LinkedIn, so it integrates well with LinkedIn. Post your articles as well as presentations (like PowerPoint) on your SlideShare account.
  3. YouTube.com

    YouTube is owned by Google, so the videos you make visible on YouTube will also be visible in Google (careful!). If video is your "thing" more than writing, YouTube is a great venue, and you'll be able to call yourself a producer or director on your resume and LinkedIn Profile. Establish your own "YouTube Channel" to build a profile and connect your videos to your website or other professional profile.
  4. Quora.com

    People post questions on Quora on millions of topics, and they are hoping for someone to provide a complete, comprehensible, actionable answer. If you can answer a question, post a complete, easily understood response. Your answer may receive "upvotes" (sometimes in the thousands) by Quora's millions of visitors. The best answers are picked up and publishsed by sites like Mashable, Inc.com, Slate.com, and many more, so visibility can be quite wide. Be sure to set up a complete Quora profile!
  5. Amazon.com

    You can write a very short book for Amazon, publish it on Kindle, and set up your Amazon author page. Nothing defines you as an expert like writing a book on a topic. Go to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) on the Amazon.com website to publish your Kindle book. (You'll need a properly formatted Word document and a cover image.) The good news is that you'll also get paid when someone buys your book, and be entitled to add "author" to your LinkedIn Professional Headline and Work Experience! Be sure to set up a complete profile, including your photo (from LinkedIn) and links to your website or LinkedIn Profile!
  6. Pinterest.com

    Pinterest is growing in popularity and is a great site to use if you are not excited about writing. Post your photos, and grow your visibility. Be sure to add "photographer" to your LinkedIn Profile and resumes.
  7. YourName.com (or .me, .info, .us, .ca, etc.)

    Register your name as a domain name (as a .com, .me, or other top level domain name that is appropriate for you). The domain registrar will charge an annual fee, usually less than $25/year. In the USA, Tucows.com and GoDaddy.com are 2 of the top registrars. You can use the domain name for email and, for an additional monthly hosting fee, set up a website like a WordPress blog where you can post articles. If you do create a website, be sure to set up a complete profile, like an online resume on steroids.

Many other options exist and will develop in the future. Just be sure to keep your personal and your professional personas separate.

Next: A Good Defense Is Essential

Pay attention to what Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other sites show the world about you (or about someone with the same name you have). I know too many job seekers who had a tough job search until they discovered (and fixed) personal reputation problems which were really mistaken online identity situations:

  • One job seeker was using the same name as a disbarred attorney in the same state.
  • Another was using the same name as a dead porn star.

Until both of those job seekers adjusted their names to differentiate themselves from the disbarred attorney and dead porn star, they were ignored by employers. Few businesses want to hire a disbarred attorney, and those employers who received an application form the deceased porn star didn't take them seriously (clearly a joke, right?).

These kinds of situations can pop up over night as someone becomes a person that employers would avoid. Unless you are paying attention, you won't know that

Not surprisingly, since Google is the key to being visible to potential employers and recruiters (your "offense"), Google is also an essential part of your defense.

1. Practice Defensive Googling

Know what is visible online associated with your name, whether or not the person involved is actually you. Search Google for your professional name on a weekly basis. Check the first 3 pages of search reesults to see what you find. Be wary of invisibility. Also be wary of mistaken online identity. [See: Defensive Googling for details.]

NOTE: Even if the visibility is about someone else who has the same name you do, pay attention!

As described above, your reputation and job search can be damaged by someone using the same name. Unless you are aware of the situation, you won't be able to separate yourself from that person's actions or address any issues with potential employers. Also periodically check the search results on Bing, DuckDuckGo, and Yahoo.

2. Use Google Alerts

In addition to the offense described above, be sure to monitor what is going on related to you and/or your name as your first line of defense. Set up Google Alerts to monitor your name. Google Alerts can also monitor other important information related to your job search. [See 50 Google Alerts to Avoid Layoffs and Bad Employers.]

More Information


About the author...

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.



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