If you’re a recent graduate, you likely have polished your resume, bought an interview suit, and spend huge chunks of your day scouring job boards. However, if you haven’t taken the time to check out your web presence, you could cost yourself that coveted first job.
A whopping 60 percent of employers check web search results and social media accounts when reviewing candidates. Posts like insensitive tweets, drunken Facebook pictures, or other unflattering information can cause the employer to decline your application altogether.
Here is what you need to do to clean up your online reputation:
1. Search for Yourself
The first thing you need to do is evaluate what your current online presence is like. Do a Google search of your name and see what comes up on the first three pages. You might be surprised by the results; comments you made on blogs can show up, as well as old posts from your MySpace or LiveJournal days.
You should also review your social media accounts, including the photos and replies you post. What might be a funny, inside joke between friends can be offensive in a different context, so review your posts with a critical eye.
Once you see how unflattering the results are, you can take steps to fix it.
2. Limit Access to Social Media
Setting your social media accounts’ privacy settings to private is a good start. However, you risk the chance of connections taking screenshots or sharing your posts.
Instead, go through and delete any posts or photos that could be taken out of context or give an employer a bad impression. If in doubt, err on the side of caution and remove anything that could be even slightly controversial.
3. Reach Out For Help
If you can’t delete posts because it’s posted by a friend, reach out to them and ask them to remove the posts. If they protest, explain that you’re job-searching and being extra cautious. If they refuse, you can reach out to Facebook directly; in some cases, Facebook will step in and remove the posts.
If there is content on other sites that is unflattering, you can also contact the bloggers or site managers to have it removed. When you do so, be kind and explain why you want it deleted. If you said something controversial or offensive, make sure you include that you posted inappropriate content without thinking, and that you’ve matured and grown out of that conduct. If you explain kindly and authentically, they will be more likely to help you.
4. Hire a Service
If there’s objectionable content under your name and you cannot contact the blogger, or if they refuse to delete the posts, one option is hiring a web reputation service. Companies like ReputationX work on your behalf to get questionable content removed and to improve your online presence.
If the content cannot be removed, the services will work to remove it from search results. They also will work to reduce visibility of such posts by creating positive and neutral content for you.
However, those services aren’t cheap, so they should only be a last resort.
5. Create New Content
You can improve your search results by producing new content. If you spend some time doing that, you can push the less-flattering items off the main pages of search results. Here are five ways to improve your web presence:
1. Comment on industry blogs: Look for field-specific blogs and forums and interact with other users. Ask questions, give thoughtful responses and comment on the latest news and issues affecting the industry. Over time, those comments can appear earlier in search results.
2. Post achievements: Use your social media accounts to advertise yourself. Post public content about your accomplishments or industry news.
3. Update LinkedIn: Polish your LinkedIn profile so it comes up earlier on search results.
4. Start a blog: You can also start a website or blog under your real name to improve results. By blogging about your field, you can also boost your professional reputation.
5. Post on Quora: Quora is a site where users can ask questions, and people can respond. The best posts are voted to the top. By checking in and answering questions related to your field or hobbies, you can fill your search results with quality content.
Establishing a Solid Reputation
Because so many employers will check your online presence, it’s essential to build and maintain positive search results. Once you have improved your results, make sure you keep it employer-ready by being thoughtful about what you post going forward.
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