Viewpoint: Searching for a New Job? Mind Your Online Reputation

How to create online proof of your HR expertise

By Meg Guiseppi Nov 22, 2016
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​Here is an undeniable truth too many job seekers dismiss or don't understand: With the advent of the digital age, job hunting has become a whole new ball game, requiring personal branding and online proof of your expertise … and a lot more preparation, planning and hard work.

Whether you're in the process of looking for a new job or helping a family member, friend or colleague with a job search, it's important to know that social recruiting is now the norm. According to the results of recruiting platform Jobvite's most recent Recruiter Nation survey, only 4 percent of recruiters do not use social media to source and assess candidates.

And while LinkedIn is now, by far, the most important place for job seekers to be online, Jobvite reports that only 40 percent of job seekers using social media are on LinkedIn.

[SHRM members-only content: How to Use Social Media for Applicant Screening]

A good-looking, well-written resume used to be king and, along with a strong network, just about all you needed to land a new job. However, a great resume alone won't cut it anymore. Besides, these documents don't look, read or work the way they used to.

If it has been five or more years since you embarked on a job search, you may think you may think the situation will be similar to when you last changed jobs. You dusted off your resume, looked for job openings and reached out to recruiters. Or you were lucky enough to have a stream of opportunities coming in from recruiters. Or a job just fell into your lap through some connection.

Job seekers today simply shouldn't expect to slide into a new gig so easily, especially if they are neglecting personal branding and online presence.

And yet, all too often I hear job seekers say self-sabotaging things like:

  • "Personal branding is not for me. I'm not a brand, I'm a person. And I don't like to brag about myself."
  • "I don't want to 'put myself out there' online."
  • "If I update my online brand, my current employer will know that I'm looking."
  • "I don't have time for LinkedIn or any other social networking."

This is no time for excuses. Three cold, hard realities impact today's job search and the ability to land a new position faster:

1. Personal Branding Is No Longer Optional

Much has been written about personal branding, and much of it fails to hit the mark. A few words on what personal branding is not:

  • A passing fad soon to be replaced by the next best thing.
  • The way to position yourself as an expert in your field.
  • Ego-stroking—an opportunity to brag about yourself.
  • A nifty tagline for your resume and e-mail signature.
  • The ticket to making big money.
  • The path to becoming famous.
  • A so-called brand statement simply stringing together functional areas of expertise.

Simply put, personal branding for job search is about defining and knowing what makes you unique and valuable to the employers you're targeting. Differentiation is the key to helping you stand out from your competition in the job market.

Your brand is your authentic self. It's your reputation, what people rely on you to deliver and what you're the go-to person for. Your brand is the combination of personal qualities and hard skills that represent why you would be a good fit at your target employers.

Personal branding helps you generate buzz and makes your personal marketing content (resume, LinkedIn profile, biography, etc.) a more interesting read. 

Personal brand-building begins with targeting and researching specific employers so that you can build personal marketing content that positions you as a good fit to help those employers meet their current pressing needs.

2. Having an Online Presence Is No Longer Optional

Executive recruiters and hiring decision-makers have new, Internet-driven strategies to source and assess candidates. Most turn to LinkedIn first, and then to other online platforms, to find and assess candidates based on what exists about them online. Job seekers who ignore LinkedIn, in particular, for reputation management and personal brand-building risk career suicide. 

Recruiters and employers are looking for job seekers who have a diverse, compelling online footprint. If you are not visible and at least somewhat active online, you may never be found by the people you need to be smack dab in front of. If Googling your name yields little to no search results, you'll likely be passed over for someone who has a vibrant online persona. 

The more webpages associated with your name, the stronger your candidacy and the stronger the likelihood you will be a person of interest. 

As you write content to build an online presence, be mindful of personal SEO (search engine optimization): Research each company and industry you are targeting to identify relevant keywords and phrases, and then include these SEO-rich words in your resume, profile and social media posts to help recruiters and hiring decision-makers find you.

3. 'Social Proof' Can Tip the Scales in Your Favor

Recruiters and hiring professionals will Google job seekers' names before reaching out to them. Recruiters are looking for "social proof" to validate the claims you've made in your resume and other career documents and to corroborate your personal brand. 

A word to the wise: Before posting your resume or updating your LinkedIn profile, know that colleagues, employers or others who know better will scrutinize it for anything that isn't accurate. Discrepancies between the documents you provide to prospective employers and what they find out online can send up red flags about your candidacy, so make sure you can back up your claims.Social proof helps reinforce the idea that you will be a good fit at your target companies and positions you as an up-to-date social media-savvy candidate who knows how to operate in the digital age.

Tips to Master Online Reputation and Personal Brand Management 

By now, you should be aware of the well-known places to build your brand and online presence: LinkedIn, a personal website or blog, and Twitter and other social networks. Information about these abounds. Here are two little-known but powerful strategies that you should add to your brand communications plan.

1. Write Posts on LinkedIn's Pulse Publishing Platform

Many job seekers either don't know about this feature or don't know that they have access to it. LinkedIn offers this powerful platform to post articles that demonstrate subject matter expertise, express opinions, influence people, manage reputation, build online branding and stay on people's radar. 

Posting on this platform is almost as good as publishing your own blog, and it doesn't require you to deal with maintenance hassles. Other added benefits:

  • Each article posted becomes part of your professional profile and is displayed on the "Posts" section of your LinkedIn profile.
  • Posts are shared with your connections and followers.
  • Out-of-network members can follow you to receive updates of new posts.
  • Each post is searchable both on and off LinkedIn. 

Although the Pulse platform may not be available to everyone yet, LinkedIn is slowly rolling it out to all members. If the "Publish a Post" button is visible on the home page of your profile, to the right of the "Share an Update" button, you're ready to start writing a post. 

Coming up with topics to write about may keep you from using this tool. Scan the list of the relevant keywords and phrases you're using in your personal marketing content and write articles about those topics. These keywords represent your areas of expertise, so you should be able to write about them fairly easily.

2. Write Book Reviews on Amazon

Writing reviews of relevant books and publications on Amazon (or Barnes & Noble and other well-known sites) packs many benefits:

  • The branded personal profile you create on the site represents a valuable search result for your name.
  • Any book review posted becomes another powerful search result.
  • Carefully crafted reviews support your subject matter expertise and thought leadership.
  • Reading the right books can only improve your breadth of knowledge, and possibly strengthen your skill set.

To write the best reviews, you should:

  • Choose books relevant to your areas of HR expertise, so the reviews will demonstrate your subject matter knowledge.
  • Choose books that your target employers' decision-makers are likely reading.
  • Look for books written by people with whom you want to connect. Authors will notice all reviews posted.
  • To reinforce personal SEO, make sure reviews include the relevant keywords and phrases that target employers likely are using to search for candidates like you.
  • Be sure to put relevant keywords and phrases in your Amazon profile to bolster personal SEO.
  • Link to your reviews in LinkedIn updates, LinkedIn's Pulse platform, tweets, Facebook updates and other social media.
  • Without being too self-promotional, mention in the review if you're an authority on the subject. For example, "As an HR generalist with more than 20 years of experience in employee relations, I agree with the author that ... "

Play It Safe, Keep It Clean

While actively building your online footprint, you need to safeguard your online reputation by keeping an eye on what happens when a search is run for your name.

Google personalizes results based on your search history, so it's a good idea from time to time to use someone else's computer to search for your name, as different results may appear. Also, it's best to be logged out of any Google accounts (Google Plus, Gmail, etc.) before running the search.

In a competitive job market, employers demand—and get—the very best of the best candidates who have squeaky-clean online footprints. Therefore, you must be diligent in building and safeguarding your online reputation.

Meg Guiseppi is the author of 23 Ways You Sabotage Your Executive Job Search … and How Your Brand Will Help You Land and is a personal branding expert on Job-Hunt.org. 

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