"Social Proof" -- Required for Successful Job Search
By Susan P. Joyce
Remember the old Las Vegas marketing line, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”?
Now, that line has morphed into “What happens in Vegas, stays in Google (and Bing, et al.).”
Leading a “perfect” life – very low-profile, never breaking any laws, never participating in any form of social media, never doing anything that might draw negative attention, does not ensure a clean personal reputation in 2018 or beyond, unfortunately.
Nor, does such a low profile, if achieved, impress recruiters and hiring managers with your knowledge of how social media and the Internet work.
Today, a minimal online professional profile can be as hazardous to your job search and your career as a profile which is full of bad photos and nasty comments.
A 2018 CareerBuilder survey found that nearly half of employers (47%) say that if they can't find a job candidate online, they are less likely to call that person in for an interview.
When you are invisible:
- Information about someone else with the same name may be found, and what that person has done may ruin opportunities for you.
- Aggregated "public" information about you from official records is on the first page of search results, and most people stop looking with that first page.
The information often includes your age and birthdate (particularly for Facebook users), home address and phone number, value of your home (if owned), speeding tickets, property taxes, and much more. With your created and managed social proof (see below), that aggregated information is not viewed.
What Is Social Proof?
Social proof is very important for a successful job search, today.
Social proof is your public Internet activities - your public profiles and contributions - reviewed by recruiters, potential employers, and others. Without knowing you, those activities are proof of who you really are.
Creating social proof doesn't require spending 10 hours a day dumping content and comments on every social network available. Spend time creating focused, consistent content on LinkedIn and other social networks appropriate for you and your career.
You Are Being Watched
According to an excellent study funded by Microsoft back in 2009, eighty percent (80%!) of employers and recruiters conducted an Internet search on the names of applicants. Searching is much more widely used now!
Nearly 100% of employers search the Internet using the applicant's name - a quick and easy "background check" to eliminate the obvious "bad fits." If they find negative content or nothing positive and relevant about/by you, your application is ignored.
You must manage your public actions so that what is found shows you in a positive light. This need is not going to disappear. It is only going to become stronger in the future.
The assumptions employers make:
- Your visibility confirms resume facts and demonstrates your skills and personality.
The assumption is that your public content is more factual than your resumes or applications because it is visible to the people who actually know your facts, making misrepresentations very awkward.
- Lack of visibility is negative.
If positive professional visibility is not available associated with your name, employers assume that you are out-of-date or maintaining a very low profile because you are hiding something negative and significant.
- Bad visibility ends opportunities.
If search engines show unprofessional visibility (pictures of you, or someone with your name, drinking excessively or doing drugs, etc.), employers will not want to employ you.
Your Internet activities can reveal a great deal about you, and demonstrate the level of your skills, capabilities, experience, and knowledge.
Monitor Your Online Reputation
To know what employers and recruiters find when they search for your name in Google, monitor what search engines are associating with your name. Note that this doesn’t need to be associated with you! Mistaken online identity is more of an issue than many people believe.
Anything a search engine associates with your name, whether it is you personally or someone else who shares the same name, can be a problem for you because an employer won’t know whether or not the person involved is you.
You can lose out on an opportunity because someone else has “muddied” your name.
Read Defensive Googling for details on how to monitor your name, best practiced at least on a monthly basis.
Your Online "Tracks" Should Support Your Resume's "Facts"
Employers are accustomed to a degree of "exaggeration" in many resumes and job applications, and, not surprisingly, they don't like it.
Did you really attend that school, earn that degree, work for that employer, and hold that job title? Are you really the skilled communicator you claim to be? Do you demonstrate the expertise your resume says you have?
Today, thanks to social media and search engines, it is much easier for employers to uncover exaggerations. It is also easier to shine in comparison with other job seekers.
Build Your Social Proof
It is important to be purposeful in creating your online reputation. And to be active, particularly when you are job hunting.
This will actually accomplish two goals – managing your reputation, of course, and also demonstrating that you understand how to operate in the current business environment which definitely includes an online element. It will also help you distance yourself from everyone else who shares the same name.
Considering their impact in Google search results, any of these basic elements could establish your online presence and help you manage your online reputation. They would also help you recover your reputation if necessary, depending on how many you use.
Your first line of defense is your LinkedIn Profile. A LinkedIn Profile provides "proof" accepted by most employers. While resumes may contain those hated exaggerations, your LinkedIn Profile, visible to your friends and professional colleagues, is expected to be an honest representation of your career facts. Having an entry for yourself will help distance you from any “doppelgänger” who may be negatively impacting your job search. Compare your resume with your Profile -- they should agree, containing the same employment dates, same job titles, same employer names, education, etc.
You can build credibility, authority, and gain good Google search results positioning with a solid Twitter account. Keep it focused on finding and sharing good information on your topic, and you can “meet” some very nice people on Twitter.
Facebook is the largest social network, reportedly with over 2 BILLION members. Do NOT over-share personal information on Facebook. Assume that everything you post on the site will be seen by a recruiter or potential employer at some point in time! If you have been using Facebook for a while, go through and clean up your posts.
“Professional content sharing platform” SlideShare was one of the original LinkedIn Applications, and it still connects very well into a LinkedIn Profile. Purchased by LinkedIn.com in 2012, SlideShare provides you with the opportunity to build visibility for your professional knowledge and expertise. Just be careful not to reveal anything that is confidential to a former – or current – employer.
Quora is a question and answer website. If you are an expert in a topic, raise your visibility by providing thoughtful, well-written, and complete answers to relevant questions. Don’t respond too casually or sloppily. Bad answers can damage your reputation very visibly rather than enhancing it. Quora is a good place to learn things, too, so you can remain up-to-date in your field.
Owned by Google, YouTube is the world’s 2nd most popular search engine (right after you-know-who). Create how-to videos in your area of expertise. If you have created videos, even Camtasia videos of your PowerPoint Presentations, you can publish them on your own YouTube Channel.
More visibility for your videos. Like YouTube, Vimeo is free for you to post your videos, and they also have an upgrade available.
If you like to write and are an expert in a topic but don’t want to commit to a weekly blog post, consider contributing articles to well-known sites like Medium.com. You may also be able to contribute to BusinessInsider, Forbes, Mashable, Patch, and many others. If there is a site you particularly like and visit often, check to see if they accept articles. Most often, these will be unpaid opportunities. Do be aware that the site’s reputation will color your own, so choose carefully. Understand that you won't control how long your article remains visible or the amount of visibility it receives.
Your own blog
There are many blog platforms around where you can get started blogging – Blogger.com, SquareSpace, Tumblr, Weebly, Wix, WordPress.com, etc. Make your knowledge and opinions about your topic visible – very carefully. Most blogs die or are abandoned eventually, but if you have the writing skill and the determination to write a blog, they can be powerful for increasing your personal visibility and “brand.”
Write a book
A long time ago, a speaker encouraged people to write non-fiction books in their areas of expertise by simply saying, “Author. Authority!” True. Of course, writing a book is not easy or more of us would do it. Publish a “real” book or a Kindle ebook sold through Amazon, and you qualify to have an Amazon Author Page.
Separate Your Public and Private Profiles
Separate your public "professional" or "business" identity from your private, informal, "fun" or "angry" identities. Don't let those crazy photos you posted in college or your political rants on your local newspaper's website scare a potential employer away.
If you absolutely must rant on a topic or post questionable photos or comments, use a different identity from the identity you use for work and job search.
Social proof is not optional, but it is also not hard to develop, thanks to LinkedIn and Google. Just remember that potential employers may see everything you post publicly with your professional name, and act accordingly.
More About Social Proof
Strategies to Build Your Social Proof:
Social Proof for Reputation Management:
More Social Media and Job Search Guides:
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.
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