Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on FlexJobs.com.
Do you feel you’ve got a good handle on professional behavior?
As a considerate coworker, you acknowledge the boundaries that are appropriate for your workplace and you steer away from any subjects or comments that might make someone else feel uncomfortable.
What about outside of your work environment? Have you ever posted comments or participated in activities you wouldn’t choose to do in the middle of your office?
Realistically, who hasn’t?
Even if you didn’t post anything about that recent karaoke night, did one of your friends?
What about that line from a movie you thought was hilarious until someone explained the harmful reference you hadn’t understood? Have you considered how those moments captured online will impact your job search?
Managing Your Online Reputation
Unfortunately, social media has made it possible for prospective employers to look beyond your professional presence and form an opinion of who you are both in and out of work.
If you haven’t taken control of your online reputation before, it’s time to do so before it has a chance to harm your job search and future career.
In today’s job market, the majority of employers — 67% according to a Harris Poll — are screening candidates through social media. Over half of them shared that what they found caused them not to hire a candidate they were considering.
Unfortunately, many job seekers don’t realize until it’s too late that their online presence can be a significant determining factor in landing a job.
Looking Beyond LinkedIn
You probably planned to network with recruiters on LinkedIn, so it’s not surprising that they’ll be looking your up on that network.
However, recruiters aren’t simply screening LinkedIn. They also look through social sites, such as Facebook and TikTok, and complete Google searches.
These platforms offer employers insight into who you are, professionally and personally. Prospective employers will use these channels to try and determine whether or not you’re a good fit for their company culture.
They’re also guessing about your character and how you might interact with their other employees — not to mention, how you’ll represent the company’s brand.
Recruiters Are Seeking Verification
It’s worth noting that employers aren’t always looking to discredit you. They’re also seeking a means to validate your industry knowledge, skills, and experience.
In fact, not having an online presence can be as damaging as having a bad one.
And unfortunately, managing your online reputation is an ongoing process. It requires constant vigilance and effort. However, it’s well worth the effort if it means landing your dream job.
How Your Online Reputation Is Formed
The first step to managing your online reputation is understanding what it includes.
Your Social Media Presence
First, there’s your social media presence. This includes anything you post on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
If you’re active on social media, you have an advantage, as you’ll have more control over your narrative than if it’s left in the hands of friends and relatives.
This is important because it’s not just about your posts but also what others post about you. If you’re tagged in photos or mentioned in posts, that content becomes part of your social media footprint.
Your Professional Presence
Next, there’s your professional online presence. This includes information about you that can be found online related to your work or career.
If you have a personal website or blog, that’s part of your professional online presence.
Your activity on professional networking sites like LinkedIn and any articles or papers you’ve written that are available online also make up this portion of your online footprint.
Your Search Engine Results
Finally, there are your search engine results. This is the stuff that comes up when someone googles your name.
Sometimes this can be positive, such as when your name is linked to a recent article or award you’ve won.
But it can also be negative, say, if there’s negative press or a questionable quote that comes up when someone searches your name.
Repairing a Damaged Online Presence
If you start looking for your name online and discover that the results don’t tell the story you want, don’t panic!
There are steps you can take to repair your online presence.
The first step is to do a thorough inventory of everything that’s out there. Devote time to conducting a comprehensive Google search of your name and combing through all your social media channels.
Make a note of anything that could be seen as negative or unprofessional.
Remember that you have context behind the content that hiring managers don’t. Once you have a list, you can start working on repairing any damage.
Delete Old Content if Possible
If there are old posts or photos on social media that are no longer reflective of who you are or what you want your online reputation to be, delete them or set them to private.
Suppose there’s something more serious, such as an article linking you to something negative — you might need to reach out to the website owner and ask them to take it down.
Create New Content
You should also take this opportunity to create or update any professional online profiles you have. Ensure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and includes relevant experience or skills.
If you don’t have a personal website, now might be a good time to create one.
You can also use this as an opportunity to take control of your search engine results.
One way to do this is by creating content for your website, your professional social media profiles, or leading industry sites that is more reflective of your personal brand and the image you want to project.
The more content you create, the more likely it is that positive results will come up when someone searches for your name.
Caring for Your Online Reputation
Your online reputation is important — especially if you’re job-searching. Taking control of your online presence can ensure that potential employers see the best version of you.