If your executive job search has stalled, the problem might NOT be your resume, cover letter, or LinkedIn Profile – but your digital identity.
I’ve worked with executives who were surprised they weren’t getting traction in the job search, until I pointed out that their lawsuit with a former employer (or their rant-filled Twitter stream) was easily findable online.
Today, companies can find out so much about you with a simple Google search. Not only are your social media profiles open to scrutiny, but data on your political affiliations, financial status, family, or legal matters can be discovered in just minutes.
To determine whether your digital identity and online brand message are holding you back, take these steps to find (and fix) the problem:
1 – First, research yourself PAST the first page of Google.
You’ll find the most-read information about yourself on the first 1 to 3 pages of search results, but you’ll need to dig deeper.
No matter how good this data looks, it pays to research your online identity more deeply, all the way to the LAST page.
Check out as many instances of your name as you can find – and keep in mind that this includes others with your name. If you can find data that looks like it’s associated with you – so can employers.
Make the assumption than any social media accounts can and WILL be read by interviewers. This is especially important for leaders seeking a C-suite officer role in a public corporation, as these employers assume significant liability in hiring you and will therefore vet you thoroughly.
2 – Decide if action is warranted.
If anything you’ve found looks like it might arouse concerns, dig into it further. Next, find out if this information can be easily removed (such as a series of articles you’ve posted or comments you’ve made).
A word of caution: you may believe that data can easily be removed off social media. Think again.
Your Twitter Tweets or Instagram posts, might have been shared in a screenshot, even if you took them down (older Tweets were even cataloged in the Library of Congress!). In some instances, your carefully deleted Facebook posts can still show up to haunt you.
You may be best off deactivating or trimming these social media accounts, especially if they reference volatile political opinions or other polarizing conversations. Employers CAN read plenty into your online activities!
If you’re involved in any type of legal activity or you’ve been featured in the news, you may need deep pockets to remove this information. Some online news articles and posts are best handled with an attorney experienced in defamation cases. You can also ask individual website owners to remove negative information.
No matter what the situation, getting rid of online information is a chore – particularly since it’s most likely indexed by Google and therefore takes a while to fade from search results, even if it’s deleted.
If you need additional help, turn to reputation management companies such as BrandYourself.com or ReputationDefender.com. These companies spend considerable time removing data, or adding new, positive information to bolster your online results.
3 – Continually monitor your digital identity.
If you haven’t already done so, setting up Google Alerts can be a great way to find information when it is first posted. To do so, visit the Google Alerts page and provide details of the phrase you are monitoring (such as your full name or versions of it).
You’ll also find some data can slip through the cracks – even though Google Alerts can be a helpful tool in your executive job search.
Regularly search for yourself using an Incognito Window (a Google Chrome feature), which will show you what others see when running a query on your name.
If you share a common name with other people, pay attention to THEIR online identity. You may need to distinguish yourself from someone committing a high-profile crime, and be prepared to explain this to recruiters.
4 – Add information that you WANT employers to see.
There are plenty of platforms in which you can publish online content.
This is particularly important if you share a name with someone else or you’re wanting to distinguish yourself in a competitive field.
Blog posts, LinkedIn article publishing, industry white papers, professional association news, guest posts, and personal websites can all help promote your expertise. You can also join industry associations, volunteer for Board positions, and otherwise continue to shape your leadership reputation.
The key to creating positive information is to continue doing it, rather than publishing one or two posts before quitting. This will help “push down” potentially damaging information so that it’s not among the top search items related to your name.
Cross-reference this new content among social media platforms. You could post an article on LinkedIn and reference it on Instagram, for example, or mention your blog posts in other online forums. It’s important to keep promoting newer information as a critical piece of your brand image.
In summary, maintaining a positive online brand isn’t the only step to a new executive career – but it can certainly make a difference in your results.
To avoid surprises, keep an eye on your digital presence!