You may be surprised to learn your only Internet claim-to-fame is the track trophy you won in college or a mention of your participation in a charity golf tournament—three years ago. If you have a LinkedIn account and an uncommon name, your LinkedIn profile may show up in a search. But if you have many doppelgangers (people who share your name), it’s more difficult to distinguish yourself online.
Why should job seekers worry about how they appear online? Nearly 80 percent of recruiters, human resources professionals, and hiring managers who responded to a Microsoft survey said they search for candidates’ information online and may use it to disqualify applicants. And what if they disqualify you based on incorrect information? Maybe it’s not really you they found online, but someone with the same name and a similar profile. What if you share your name with an unsavory character or someone with a questionable reputation?
These are all reasons why you should be vigilant about monitoring your online reputation. Set up Google alerts for your name to receive notification whenever Google indexes something about you or someone who shares your name. Also consider searching and monitoring your name’s alternate spellings or misspellings.
Finding information is the first step; addressing your digital footprint is the next. The best way to control what employers see is by creating your own online presence, or a website in your name; in other words, YourName.com. For example, Mark Smith would be MarkSmith.com. When you create a website with YourName.com, you help search engines identify the correct information when people look for you, no matter how many people have similar profiles and monikers.
For example, Willie Jackson is a technology processional currently serving as CTO at The Domino Project, a new publishing venture by Seth Godin that’s powered by Amazon. He helps organizations leverage the best tools available so they can focus on their business and not on the technology.
His site is the top search result for a query of "Willie Jackson," even though he has the same name as a professional football player. He attributes this to a combination of website optimization, sound search-engine optimization (SEO), and owning the "exact match" domain for his name.
Maintaining your own site and creating content you want employers and others to see when they search for you online is one of the best ways to control what people learn about you—and one way to help people conducting cursory searches land on your information instead of someone else’s. It also ensures you present an up-to-date, targeted, professional profile, and helps suppress older information you may not want people to find. (For example, that picture of you carrying a profane sign at a rally in college—complete with your name in the caption. Producing current information relevant to your goals may convince a hiring manager to end his or her search before uncovering information you don’t want public.)
In a digitally driven job market, engaging in the online playground by sharing professional information that’s designed to attract employers to you is key to job-search success.
Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer and owner of Keppie Careers. She teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success. Connect with her via Twitter @Keppie_Careers.