In today’s digital world, looking for a job no longer simply consists in posting off your CV and handwritten cover letter to a potential employer. You can now apply to jobs online. But remember: once you are present on the web, you have an online reputation. Your future employer can easily search for you on the Internet in order to find out more about you. All they need to do is ‘Google’ your name to come up with your Facebook page, your blog, your LinkedIn profile, and comments you may have left on a forum. Your objective here? To control the information that potential employers can find out about you online, while increasing the visibility of your professional profile.
Check your online reputation
Your online reputation is your digital identity on the Internet. It is made up of all the online traces left (voluntarily or not) by a person, and from everything published about that person by others.
In fact, without realizing it, you are present online in the following ways:
Via your participation in a seminar or conference (list of participants’ names online),
via a report for a club or association (sports or social),
via the online municipal newspaper,
via publications / photos of you posted by others,
On the other hand, if you have created your own profile on a social networking site like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or if you have started a blog or posted a comment on a forum, you have already voluntarily and consciously contributed to creating your own online reputation (unless you have used a pseudonym). In theory, your digital identity is the reflection of the information you have chosen to reveal … unless of course, you aren’t very good at setting confidentiality settings (they aren’t always easy to use), and what was intended as personal information ends up being very public…
As your online reputation is visible to everyone, and therefore potentially to recruiters, it is essential to regularly control the information out there, so that your image is a positive rather than a negative one.
By typing in your first name and family name into Google, you can quickly see what your online reputation looks like. This is important to do and something worth doing on a regular basis: today, one recruiter out of two does this kind of search. Following the selection of your CV and before your interview, over 50% of potential future recruiters or employers will Google you. Personal and professional items of information seen about you online may bias (positively or negatively) the recruiter/employer with regard to your job application and the potential outcome.
To avoid any embarrassment or job disappointment, here are some examples of the type of content you should not leave online:
photos where you appear partially or completely naked
photos where you can be seen drinking
holiday photos: although these may be harmless in themselves, by having them accessible to the general public, they may leave your potential employer wondering about your ability to correctly use social networking sites, and your potential lack of regard for keeping your personal life private. In other words, they are not a good sign to send to recruiters/employers
various posts with spelling mistakes and errors
any posts in which you criticize a previous or current employer are to be deleted immediately!
Type in your first name and family name (both in inverted commas to avoid getting results that aren’t related to you) on search engines (start with Google as it’s the most widely used, and then Bing, for example). Download the table below to analyse and keep track of your online reputation. As you go through the results, fill out the table (see example below). This will be useful for the next stage.
Address of the page containing information you want to delete
Information to delete
Action to take or person/board to contact (Google, Bing, Facebook, review sites, etc.)
End of year gala photo
Clémence P., who took the photo
It might be a good idea to put a reminder in your diary to renew the operation in three weeks’ time (and at regular intervals after that)!
Clean up your online reputation
If you come across certain information online that a) is incorrect, or b) risks damaging your chances of job success if seen by a potential recruiter or employer, then you need to act immediately!
Clean up the information that you have direct access to
You can keep certain information private or visible only to certain friends by correctly setting the confidentiality settings on the various social media sites where you have accounts. Remember to check the confidentiality settings of other sites where you have created a profile.
For Facebook for example, go to ‘Privacy Settings and Tools’ and ‘Timeline and Tagging Settings’. Here, you can do the following:
Prevent others from tagging you in photos
Check what others can see on your timeline in the ‘Who can see things on my timeline?’ section
In the ‘Who can look me up?’ section you can edit the settings so that search engines outside of Facebook don’t link to your profile
You can also block or delete certain posts from your timeline (timeline section) and photos (photos section).
We recommend you do the same for all the other social media sites on which you are present: Twitter, Instagram, etc.
Request the removal of information posted by someone other than yourself
However, information posted by someone other than yourself can prove more difficult to remove. But rest assured, there are ways to fix this!
If the information that you want to delete is on a website (for example a hotel review in which you were overly critical or insulting), you can ask the web manager to delete it. In general, you will find the contact details of the person responsible in the ‘Contact’ section of the site. Otherwise, follow the advice of the CNIL (the French equivalent of the Information Commissioner’s Office).
If you feel that search engines bring up results that are inappropriate to a search for your name, or results that may prejudice your reputation, you can legally request the removal of said results. The website of the CNIL outlines the procedures to be followed in terms of search engines and even provides a sample letter.
In general, for any complaint relating to your reputation on the Internet (refusal to remove information by a search engine, the modification of information held by a social networking site, etc.), the CNIL outlines the steps to follow.
Finally in extreme cases, and if you have the means, you can make use of the services of a company specialising in online reputation management and cleaning. But be warned! Such services don’t come cheap!
The deletion or removal of harmful content may take some time. So instead of waiting, take action! On the Internet, it is possible to ‘bury’ certain information by publishing lots of other contents on a similar theme. Bury the harmful content by posting content that showcases your strengths and assets! This way you can push the harmful information lower in Google rankings: people rarely look beyond the second page of results. Therefore, you can minimize the visibility of harmful information, tipping the balance from negative to positive.
Go back to the online reputation table and take steps to improve your image by changing or asking others to remove 3 embarrassing items (information and/or photos) about you that might be viewed in a negative light by a potential future recruiter or employer.
Think to the future by paying attention to your online reputation!
In order to avoid this lengthy and time-consuming process:
Next time you are about to post something on the Internet think about what you are about to post before you post it. Ask yourself if this is something that could go against you in the future
make sure that you are addressing the correct public (ensure that professional contacts don’t have access to photos of your nights out on Facebook. These should be accessible to your friends only!)
you can also put in place Google alerts with your first name and family name so that you will be notified anytime information about you is posted online
Create or optimize your job candidate profile
By now, you should have taken the necessary measures to protect your online reputation. Next, let’s have a look at your professional image online. It’s vital to pay attention to this when you are looking for and applying to jobs.
Post your CV online,
Have others recommend you,
Create and build up a network of professional contacts,
Follow the latest news about the businesses or activity areas that interest you,
Participate in themed discussions,
Find job offers,
Enjoy a certain visibility with regard to potential recruiters or employers.
Having an account on a professional social media site can allow you to save time in your job search: the sites suggest jobs that correspond with your profile. You may also be headhunted by recruiters via these sites, particularly if your profile is attractive and informative (highlighting your skills and experience). Finally, recruiters often post job offers on these sites and you can even apply for the position directly via the site.
On which professional social networking site should you create your profile? The two most well-known are LinkedIn and Viadeo. Although the functions offered by the two are very similar, below are their main differences:
historically, LinkedIn is more international, Viadeo is more focused on the French job market
it costs more to create a Premium Profile on LinkedIn compared to Viadeo (there are two types of Premium Profiles depending on needs and budget); before signing up, why not make use of any free offers or trials and see what suits you best
Viadeo facilitates the meeting up of professionals via its mobile application Let’s Meet
Create a profile or modify your already existing online profile on LinkedIn (in this instance, go to the menu on the right, deactivate the ‘notify my network’ setting while you make your changes). Follow the steps below !
Create an account or connect to your account if you already have one.
Complete your headline (the top part of the profile):
- title (personalized) : this is the first item of information that is seen. It should express your area of expertise and should be related to your career goals by targeting the type of job you would like to have
- geographical location
- professional sector: choose from the options menu on LinkedIn.
Add a photo: this should be a professional photo and be suited to the target activity area. For example, if you are looking for a job in the arts, you should privilege artistic-looking images, if you are looking in the sphere of finance, more traditional photos are best. Your eyes should be visible in the photo and choose either a full-length portrait or one from the waist up. For more advice, consult this article about the impressions your profile photos can make.
Personalize your URL so that you will be better referenced on search engines (for example:
fr.linkedin.com/in/firstnamelastname) and check that your profile is a public profile ‘visible to everyone’.
Provide a brief presentation: two paragraphs are more than enough to present an overview of your skills, areas of expertise and the type of jobs you are looking for.
Fill in your professional history: more than just a CV, the aim here is to:
- showcase your tasks and responsibilities in previous (or current) employment
- show off any work you have done (reports, theses, etc.) as these are proof of your skills and abilities [see the course Composing your e-portfolio]
Outline your educational background: provide details about your course of studies and any complementary information (president of a club or association, public speaking awards, etc.) that also show off your skills.
You can ask your LinkedIn contacts for written recommendations attesting to your abilities and skills
You can also ask contacts to recommend your skills by indicating your domains of expertise and asking your contacts to endorse these
You can enhance your profile by adding sections. LinkedIn offers several sections: Languages, Volunteering experience, Prizes and awards, etc. These can be found under the profile headline at the top of your homepage.
At the end of the day, no matter which professional social networking site you choose, the most important thing is to have an informative and attractive profile, where the information on display is up-to-date, and is coherent with other profiles you may have created on other sites. It is better to have one up-to-date well-constructed profile rather than several profiles at various stages of elaboration, and with conflicting information available on the web.
It’s a good idea to look around at other profiles for inspiration before creating or improving your own! It’s important that the viewer gets a sense of who you really are, and that your profile is an attractive one, in the sense that it makes the recruiter or employer want to work with you. These are the challenges at stake in ‘personal branding’.
Get your name recognized
The last step in cultivating your online reputation is the development of a visibility strategy. This is essential if you are targeting certain careers in the media, advertising or the digital domain!
Create a network
Creating a network of professional contacts is an asset when it comes to looking for a job. Not only can you benefit from their invaluable advice, but the quality of your contacts also bears testimony to your own professionalism. In order to create a network:
Prioritize quality over quantity: don’t accept every request, but only those from people with whom you have worked or could work, or from people who could put you in contact with other interesting professionals.
Personalize your message when you invite people to connect.
Remember to look at the contact suggestions made by LinkedIn! This is a good way of making contact with people you may have initially overlooked.
Cultivating a good network of professional contacts takes time and effort: keep up-to-date with your contacts’ news, reply to their messages and recommend or endorse their skills.
Publishing content online about topics of interest to you is a good way of getting noticed by potential recruiters or employers.
There are several ways of making the most of your online profile:
creating a blog about your topic of expertise (look at consultant Frédéric Cavazza’s blog): remember to add to it on a regular basis and to reply to any comments made by readers
publish articles or share news about you via professional social networking sites
publish or republish relevant information (this is called data or content curation) using tools like scoop.it or Twitter. Tag when and if possible (add keywords and hashtags) making it easier to identify your content
leave comments on posts or content written by others
start or participate in discussions for the groups you have subscribed to on the various social networking sites. Our advice: be relevant and post in moderation.
The Golden Rule: remember to recommend and/or publish content of quality only!
Increase your professional visibility
widen your professional network by inviting five people to connect (these can be former colleagues, classmates or contacts who may be useful in terms of your career development).
prove your expertise by publishing an article or commenting on a post/publication written by one of your contacts.
You now know how to manage your online reputation. Remember: you need to maintain your reputation by regularly ensuring that your online profiles and accounts are protected and secure, and that they present you in the best, professional light. To help you do this, download our checklist!
This course was developed with the support of: