In my work with job searchers, I am often surprised to find that many have not considered the possibility that it is very likely that employers will search for them on Google. Many job seekers admit to have never Googled themselves, to find out what they look like, and seem almost offended by the notion that employers might be seeking information about candidates beyond that which has been supplied in resumes and references.
In our daily lives, when faced with a decision about a new product/service, most of us turn to Google or other search engines to gain information. We are curious to see how it is portrayed and what others might say about it; we don’t necessarily trust the advertising and want to make an independent and informed decision about what is best for us.
Job searchers are encouraged to look up employers before applying for a job or attending an interview. A search on Google can produce interesting information about a company – perhaps a newspaper report about problems with the company, or, on the positive side – inclusion in a “best employers” list. If the company cannot be found online, or if their website looks weak, job searchers might conclude that the company is outdated, out of touch with customers, or struggling financially.
It would be reasonable, then, to assume that employers would do the same. In a survey of employers,a social media monitoring service, found that more than 90% of employers turn to the Internet to find more information about candidates, at all stages of the hiring process, and that their decisions are significantly influenced by what they find online, good and bad.
Do you know what employers might find, when they search for you online? Google yourself, and look through the results carefully – check through the images, websites, blogs that appear, and identify which of these scenarios best describes what you find:
a. You are not easy to find. There are some images and links of people who share your name, and not all are respectable, and it is hard to tell whether the person who is found is actually you.
b. You are nowhere to be found. At most, there’s a Facebook page which is completely private, but otherwise, you seem invisible online.
c. You ARE easy to find, but it doesn’t look so good. There are uncomplimentary or even embarrassing photos, Facebook/YouTube/blog comments, tweets, mentions, karaoke videos or mentions in less than professional contexts.
d. It is easy to find you, and you look impressive. Your LinkedIn profile appears at the top of the search, as well as your membership in a professional association, there’s possibly a video of you participating in an athletic event, an image of you in a graduating class photo from 5 years ago, or a mention of you in a fundraising event.
If you found a, b or c, your challenge is to work on carefully crafting your own online image, through thoughtful and informed use the many free social media tools available on the Internet. In previous blog posts, we have outlined how LinkedIn and Twitter may be used to create a professional image, which will convey the best and most suitable message for employers to find. Even Facebook, which has developed a reputation as a job killer, can be used as a very effective self marketing tool, if the content and privacy settings are carefully controlled.
When using social media, remember that employers might be unforgiving. Be careful about what you say and do online; keep in mind that potential employers will judge your:
- language (swearing, being negative or mean, bullying)
- spelling and grammar
- photos, including the profile image
- friends and associations
- activities (too much drinking or partying?)
Most effectively, make sure that you have something positive and impressive to show to those who are searching for you online. If you are not working right now, engage in activities which you can show off, such as volunteering, taking a course and hobbies, such as athletics or the creative arts. Don’t be shy to share your achievements, past and present — seek out recommendations on LinkedIn from those who can speak well about you and your work. Use social media to share interesting thoughts, ideas and insights, and link up with friends and organisations that reflect well on you and your professional interests.
- Search for yourself online regularly and become familiar with what employers might find.
- Influence what people will find online about you, through careful use of social media.
- Watch your language and behaviour online, as well as that of people with whom you are associated.
- Involve yourself in positive activities, and make sure to share them online.
With so much of the discussion online focusing on the drawbacks and risks of social media, it isn’t surprising that you may be nervous to get online. The fact is, though, that with the risks, there are also some exciting opportunities for job seekers to create and project a positive online image, which could go a long way to persuade potential employers that you might just be that perfect next employee which they seek.