How to Improve Your Online Identity

If you have a common name, it can be even more difficult to distinguish yourself online.

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Job seekers often hear how important it is to make it easy to find information about you online. Why? A Cross-Tab research study, Online Reputation in a Connected World, points out:

  • 75 percent of HR departments are expected to research candidates online
  • 89 percent of hiring managers and recruiters review candidates’ professional online data
  • 86 percent of employers believe a positive online reputation influences their hiring decisions—and nearly 50 percent say the influence is “to a great extent” and they expect it to increase
  • Further proving how important it is to be discoverable online is an ExecuNet Inc. research study, 2010 Executive Job Market Intelligence Report:

    • 90 percent of search-firm recruiters regularly Google candidates to help draw a complete picture of that individual—up from 75 percent in 2005
    • [See 10 Smart Ways to Use Social Media in Your Job Search.]

      If you have a common name, it may be difficult to distinguish yourself online. About 2,000 people on LinkedIn share their name with someone on the FBI’s most wanted list, says James Alexander, founder of Vizibility.com, a company that creates tools to help professionals and companies stand out on the Web.

      You may be surprised to learn how mistaken identity could be affecting your job search. For example, a colleague shared the story of a friend who was not attracting interviews despite his qualifications. After creating a website (a social resume) using his name in the URL, he began receiving invitations to interview for jobs. The first interviewer greeted him with, “So, you’re NOT the killer!” Clearly, this candidate’s doppelganger (person who shares his name) was having a negative impact on his search, and creating a visible online presence helped him overcome the ramifications of sharing a name with a dubious candidate.

      [See Why You Should Own YourName.com.]

      One way to help control what people find when they search your name is to use Vizibility.com, a tool that makes it easier for people to find you online. Vizibility.com is free for basic features, yet also offers a paid version for more advanced options.

      When you register, you select from online results for your name (for example, your LinkedIn profile, Twitter account, media mentions, or your own website). Vizibility.com creates a “SearchMe™Button for Google” that leads people directly to results you selected. The company suggests including this button via “online profiles, websites, resumes, email signatures, business cards, and anywhere else” to encourage people to learn more about you.

      While a hiring manager may still go directly to Google to search for your name, creating and using the SearchMe™Button can actually improve your chances of being found in those searches, too (when people go directly to Google and don’t have your button handy). That’s because the button enhances your search engine optimization, so anyone Googling your name may actually find your SearchMe™Button ranking high in results. That person could then follow the links embedded in the button, which would lead them directly to information you want them to find.

      [See 11 New Websites for Your Job Search.]

      Vizibility.com also generates free QR codes, or square barcodes that can be scanned by smartphones and other mobile devices. You can create a code that can be scanned by anyone who has the application loaded into their phones. Anyone with the right software would be able to use the QR code to find information you included when creating it, such as links to your website, LinkedIn profile, and more.

      Distinguishing yourself online will continue to be important for job seekers who want to stand out from the crowd. Creating content via a personal website is the best way to demonstrate your expertise and let people know what you offer. Taking advantage of Vizibility.com, in combination with creating relevant online content, can help ensure you attract the attention you need to succeed.

      Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success. Miriam 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.

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