Why You May Need an Online Persona

Employers are realizing that what people do online can actually prove their value as potential hires, not just rule them out based on drunken photos or revelations of other past missteps.


Last year we saw articles like Overexposed in the Blogosphere warning how people’s online behavior and misbehavior might ruin their careers. This year, thankfully, we see the other side in articles like Computer World’s Web anonymity can sink your job search:

In a 2006 survey by executive search firm ExecuNet in Norwalk, Conn., 77 of 100 recruiters said they use search engines to check out job candidates. In a CareerBuilder.com survey of 1,150 hiring managers last year, one in four said they use Internet search engines to research potential employees. One in 10 said they also use social networking sites to screen candidates. In fact, according to Search Engine Watch, there are 25 million to 50 million proper-name searches performed each day.

In today’s job market, turning up missing on the Web may not be a fatal flaw, and it’s probably better than having a search result in a photo of you in a hula skirt. But over time, the lack of a Web presence — particularly for IT professionals — may well turn from a neutral to a negative, says Tim Bray, director of Web technologies at Sun Microsystems Inc.

Many web workers know that if you build your professional profile online, you might be able to skip resume writing and interviewing when looking for a new job or new clients. A strong online presence can sell you better than any one page summary or one hour meeting.

Computer World offers five tips for building your online professional presence including checking search engines like Google and starting a blog. Marketing Pilgrim Andy Beal adds four more good tips:

  1. Buy your domain name. Even if you don’t do a lot with it, you should own a domain name that matches (as close as possible) your name. Your online brand is important, and guess what, despite how many employers you may ultimately have, you’ll likely keep that same name for life!
  2. Understand your Google profile. Most potential employers are going to use Google, so you may as well focus on the search results there. What’s being said about you, what pages are indexed? Don’t just look at stuff that is about you, look at listings that are about someone with the same name, yet maybe negative. You should be prepared to explain that the person convicted for 3 counts of armed robbery, is not actually you.
  3. Own your brand. When someone searches for your name, you should try and make sure you have as much control over what they see, as possible. Set up a Flickr account, LinkedIn profile, blog, user-group profile, etc. While you may need the talents of a search marketer to ensure these pages appear in the top 10 of a search engine, you don’t stand any chance if you don’t actually take the time to create the profile in the first place.
  4. Destroy the evidence. Ok, so while most stuff you put online is there for eternity, that doesn’t mean you can’t try some damage control. That blog post you uploaded – the one where you went on an all night drinking binge and broke into the local Krispy Kreme – remove it! While it may still exist somewhere on the web, it is less likely to show up in the Google search results, if you’ve removed it from your own blog/social network.

Unfortunately, the downside to having a very public professional or personal presence online can be having to deal with rudeness or worse. The vast majority of netizens are polite and friendly, but the few who aren’t can make online work intolerable sometimes. Still, on balance, we are better off having this additional way of showing off our talents and connecting with those with whom we might work productively.

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