Have you applied for countless jobs with nary an interview scheduled? You could blame it on the economy… but have you Googled yourself lately?
These days, many hiring managers hit the internet to research potential candidates. And, fairly or not, they will judge you based upon what they find. So before you send out another cover letter, make sure you’ve followed these steps to cleaning up your online image:
- Check your search results. Go ahead, Google yourself. What pops up on the first page of results? Ideally, within your first three hits is your LinkedIn profile (find advice on a picking an appropriate LinkedIn picture here).
- Control your Facebook image. I wouldn’t dare ask you to deactivate Facebook during the job search process (although it’s the safest way to go). There are, however, some essential steps you should take in order to make your Facebook profile as employer-friendly as possible. First, make sure your profile is visible to friends only (even the “friends of friends” setting is risky—if you have hundreds of Facebook friends, chances are one of them is somehow linked to your potential interviewer). Also, check that the “public search” option, which allows people who enter your name in a search engine to see a preview of your profile, is disabled. Finally, choose a main picture that is as neutral as possible (time to take down that shot of you with a margarita on the beach).
- Do damage control. Sometimes, there’s less than desirable content on your results page. If it’s something embarrassing about you, contact the site owner and ask nicely that the content be taken down. If the content owner refuses—or, in another frustrating scenario, if the undesirable page belongs to someone else with the same name as you—the best way to move forward is by creating more (positive) content. This way, any older negative content will be pushed down in your search results. Get a twitter account. Start a blog. Get a YouTube channel. You could even go so far as to get a Google Plus account. But there’s a catch: your tweets, blogs and videos need to be completely G-rated, non-controversial and, ideally, topically related to your industry.
- And if your name is Jane Smith… If your name is so common that it would be virtually impossible for an employer to find you online, you have two options. If your online presence isn’t something you’re proud of, take a moment to thank your parents for their lack of creativity, then get back to whatever dance club photos you were about to post. If, on the other hand, you’d like potential employers to be able to find you, consider using your middle name as part of your professional moniker to make it more unique and, consequently, more searchable. Just make sure you change your name to Jane Winifred Smith on both your resume and your LinkedIn profile—and give Grandma Winifred a call to thank her for improving your online presence!