Here in New England, the snow has a memory. You can still see tracks in the yard and open space, days after roads have been plowed and driveways have been cleared. You can tell where people and animals have been — and you can often see what they’ve done and left behind.
As temperatures rise or new storm fronts blow in, snow tracks disappear. But all of us leave a footprint that has a much longer life span online — in fact, many people continue to have a digital presence online after they die. From casual conversations with friends, to comments on message boards, political donations and charity 5K runs, your activities will often show up in Google search results of your name.
Why does this matter? Conducting a Google search on candidates has become a standard practice: in fact, 90% of executive recruiters say they conduct online research of potential candidates (ExecuNet). Up to 70% of employers who use LinkedIn say they’ve chosen not to hire based on what they’ve found out about a candidate online, but only 27% give people the opportunity to redress any negative search results that are found.
If you are currently looking for a job, what people find in a Google search of your name matters. If search results for your name yield positive results that demonstrate your skills, interests, and experience, employers say it can help you get hired. If your search results include racy pictures, derogatory comments, or potentially illegal activities — you can potentially find yourself in the “reject pile.”
Here are five strategies you can use to protect your own online reputation:
1. Find out who you share your name with and share information accordingly.
Do you share your name with a few other people? If yes, consider including your middle name in your profile — or another variation of your name that you use.
For example, if your name is “Dave Matthews” and you are a CPA — you might want to be “David [middle name] Matthews, CPA” in any professional profiles posted online.
If you share your name with someone who’s been in legal trouble or in the court system, know why they are in the news — and tell potential employers who interview you “it wasn’t me.”
2. Know the results of a Google search on your name — and help people find your professional information.
Ever notice how ads on Google appear to be linked to your interests? It’s no coincidence. The ads that are returned to you are based on your own interests based on prior search results. (You can edit or remove your preferences here.)
Just as the ads you see are based on your interests and search patterns, you’ll receive search results generated from past clicks and your location. This means that what you see when you Google your name isn’t the same as what an employer sees — or what your friends across the country see.
Here’s a good general rule of thumb for having a professional presence on Google: At least 1 of the top 5 search results for your name should relate to your professional interests. If you create and maintain a strong LinkedIn profile, this alone will help you significantly — as LinkedIn has high visibility in search results.
3. Keep your Facebook profile clean — and scan it for inappropriate content.
Facebook’s privacy policies are ever changing and hard to pin down. Even if you limit your content only to your friends, it can end being visible to others.
One way to make sure your content stays clear? Screen it with Secure.Me, a free tool that scans your Facebook profile. Secure.me can help protect you from viruses and give you advice on what to keep private. (It will also alert you to content that others could find questionable — so you can decide what to keep and what to discard.)
We hope you’ve found these tips to be helpful. Let us know if you use and recommend any others!