Now’s the time to take action and put your best foot forward, both online and off. Make yourself #searchproof with these 5 tips below.
- A picture’s worth a thousand missed jobs
- Your posts say a lot about you
- Become a pro at Googling yourself
- Remove what you can
- Create content that puts your best foot forward
1. A picture’s worth a thousand missed jobs
Of hiring managers who declined to hire a candidate, 49% of them did so because of provocative or generally inappropriate photos. 45% specifically mentioned photos of excessive drinking or drug use. What does it mean for a photo to be inappropriate? It depends on the workplace culture of the employer you’re interviewing with, but always ask yourself whether it’s something you would do in the office or at work, or that you can imagine other employers doing. If the answer is no, de-tag, delete, or don’t post it. Here are some guidelines:
- Apply the highest standards to your profile pictures. These are the ones that employers are most likely to see.
- Photos focusing on drinking = bad. One glass of wine in your hand is probably fine, but keep the keg stand photo private.
- Steer clear of photos with drugs, paraphernalia, and things that might be deemed sexually explicit.
- Enable Tag and Profile Review on Facebook to approve tagged photos of yourself before they’re posted to your profile.
2. Your posts say a lot about you
You want to balance the positives of social networking, like expressing yourself and connecting with people, against the risks. One-third of employers who check social media in hiring have passed on a candidate because of something negative they found in the process. A good exercise is asking yourself if you’d be comfortable with your post being in a major newspaper attributed to you.
- Assume that everything you post is public or will end up public
- Social media isn’t the place to badmouth current or past employers
- No racial, religious, ethnic, or aggressively political posts
- Keep the juicy details of your love life private
- Make sure your feed isn’t one long list of complaints
- Spelling and grammar matter; they reflect upon your communication skills
3. Become a pro at Googling yourself
Google is your new resume, and you’d better know what’s on it. It’s not vain to Google yourself; it’s smart.
- Review Google’s search system to understand how to word searches for maximum effect. Use quotes. And/or and asterisks are your friends.
- Run a series of searches on your name designed to dig up dirt, like [John Smith arrest] or [John Smith fraud]. Click here for a full list of suggested searches.
- Create an alert for your name: Google allows you to create email alerts that will tell you when new content is created about you. Set one up so you'll be the first to know if there's something negative about you on the web.
- Use all of Google’s searches, not just web results: information about you can show up in more than a dozen of Google’s other search services, such as Images, Videos, Blogs, Groups, News, and Realtime (which monitors social network mentions).
- Do a reverse image search for your commonly used profile pictures. To do this, go to Google’s image search, click the camera icon in the search bar, and upload or paste the URL of the photo you’d like to search. Google will give its best guess of the identity of the person in the photo. Reverse image search is a great way to find all the old accounts you registered in the past using the same photo.
4. Remove what you can
You may have found your personal information publicly listed and up for sale on background check websites, also called data brokers or people search websites. One example is the site Spokeo.com. Take a second now to visit Spokeo and search for yourself; we’ll wait. You’ll probably be shocked by what comes up (and FYI, here’s how to remove your listing).
Many employers purchase background checks on potential hires as part of the hiring process. However, background check websites are notorious for providing inaccurate files, sometimes reporting that a potential hire has a criminal record when she truly doesn’t, or getting other factual information wrong. Your best bet is to review the information these sites list about you and either make sure it’s correct or remove it from the site.
We at Abine posted do-it-yourself removal instructions for about 20 of the biggest sites like these. Alternatively, our premium DeleteMe service will do the removals for you. And for more on this topic, check out our extensive “how to delete things from the Internet” guide, which includes things like negative blog posts or articles.
5. Create content that puts your best foot forward
Use social media and commenting as a means of branding yourself and selling your best qualities. If you’re prepared for a little self-censorship, posting under your real name can be a smart strategy. Knowing that anything you say online may show up when someone Googles you, use your postings to your advantage. Post intelligent, grammatically-correct, spell-checked, well-reasoned content. Express yourself in the field in which you want to become established. Don’t forget that good search results can be better than no search results.
You can also create positive online content to bury negative online content. Certain sites consistently rank highly in search results, and simply by creating a profile on them with your name and a bit of identifying information, you can suppress negative results. Make sure that you set your privacy settings to be publicly viewed, and only post content that you’re absolutely sure you won’t regret later. Here’s a starting list of sites to use:
- Yahoo Pulse
Now you’re ready to take control of your online presence! It can be tough to balance online authenticity (i.e., seeming like a real person and not a cardboard cut-out) and the need for a professional image, but think of the job-seeking process for the limited time period that it is: you won’t have to be this strict forever. It’s also unnecessary to censor so much that you aren’t yourself. You can still speak about what’s interested and exciting and funny to you, but do so eloquently and with an eye for potentially risky content.