What do you do when you need to find the answer to a question? Pull out an encyclopedia? Head over to the local library? Talk to the reference librarian? Likely not. You probably go on Bing or Google to find the answer online. Employers are no different when they are trying to answer the unknown: are you a good fit for my company? Do you seem like the kind of person I want to work with day in and day out? Is this person hireable?
If you work in marketing and don’t live under a rock, you’ve probably heard of SEO: Search Engine Optimization as well as SMO: Social Media Optimization. Unfortunately for job seekers, these are terms you likely never heard of but they can directly impact whether or not you get your next job.
Many laws are still up in the air regarding social media and how HR can use it to source potential candidates due to illegal information it often provides that could impact hiring decisions. Regardless of whether or not you feel this is an invasion of privacy, someone is going to Google you. You don’t really have a way to prevent that, but you can influence what employers see about you. This is where SEO & SMO come into play.
On average, 85% of people stop at the first page of search engine results and the top most visited sites (which include Facebook, LinkedIn & Twitter) usually appear on the first or second page of results. Luckily for you, you can create a page on these sites to impact the results that appear when someone searches for your name. You will want to focus first on Facebook, then LinkedIn, and lastly with Twitter.
I recommend starting with Facebook because it tends to have the most controversial information and the material found there is a commonly cited reason that HR didn’t hire a particular candidate. Clean your profile of controversial pictures, views, wall posts, movies, music and anything else questionable. Next, create a professionally focused profile on LinkedIn that highlights your achievements and the impact you made at previous employers. Join professional groups and start actively networking with people in your field. Lastly, I recommend getting on Twitter, if nothing else than to listen to what’s going on in your industry. You can identify top Twitter users around industry topics by going to http://www.listorious.com or http://www.twellow.com.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The more unique your name is, the more important it is for you to follow the above steps. Ashley Smith probably doesn’t need to worry about employers searching too long for information about her online since her name is so common, but those that have rare first and last names will be easier to find.
Cleaning up the first page of your search engine results takes time, but by using social media consistently it can be done. You’ll also learn a lot about your field in the process, so it’s a win-win!