Posted March 26, 2007 12:39 pm by with 18 comments

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Computer World takes a look at how a lack of a web presence can hurt a candidate’s chance of getting a job interview, let alone the actual job. While we’ve probably all tried “Googling” a date or famous celebrity, employers are using the search engines to “check you out” before they schedule a meeting with you.

In a 2006 survey by executive search firm ExecuNet in Norwalk, Conn., 77 of 100 recruiters said they use search engines to check out job candidates. In a survey of 1,150 hiring managers last year, one in four said they use Internet search engines to research potential employees. One in 10 said they also use social networking sites to screen candidates.

While it may be mostly confined to technology careers, not having an online identity can place a question (or black) mark against a potential job candidate.

In today’s job market, turning up missing on the Web may not be a fatal flaw, and it’s probably better than having a search result in a photo of you in a hula skirt. But over time, the lack of a Web presence — particularly for IT professionals — may well turn from a neutral to a negative, says Tim Bray, director of Web technologies at Sun Microsystems Inc.

The article goes on to suggest ways to create an online identity. Here are some of my own tips…

  1. Buy your domain name. Even if you don’t do a lot with it, you should own a domain name that matches (as close as possible) your name. Your online brand is important, and guess what, despite how many employers you may ultimately have, you’ll likely keep that same name for life!
  2. Understand your Google profile. Most potential employers are going to use Google, so you may as well focus on the search results there. What’s being said about you, what pages are indexed? Don’t just look at stuff that is about you, look at listings that are about someone with the same name, yet maybe negative. You should be prepared to explain that the person convicted for 3 counts of armed robbery, is not actually you.
  3. Own your brand. When someone searches for your name, you should try and make sure you have as much control over what they see, as possible. Set up a Flickr account, LinkedIn profile, blog, user-group profile, etc. While you may need the talents of a search marketer to ensure these pages appear in the top 10 of a search engine, you don’t stand any chance if you don’t actually take the time to create the profile in the first place.
  4. Destroy the evidence. Ok, so while most stuff you put online is there for eternity, that doesn’t mean you can’t try some damage control. That blog post you uploaded – the one where you went on an all night drinking binge and broke into the local Krispy Kreme – remove it! While it may still exist somewhere on the web, it is less likely to show up in the Google search results, if you’ve removed it from your own blog/social network.

For more advice on monitoring and managing what is said about you, check out our beginners guide to online reputation monitoring and management, it’s FREE!

  • Linkedin is pretty cool. I got an account with them back in Octoberish and never checked it out or anything, but about 2 weeks ago I noticed that a lot of people were trying to contact me, mostly my current employer, but a few CEO’s I have spoke to in the past as well. Great article Andy 🙂

  • What about those of us with super common names…there were 8 “Michael Jensen’s” at my University during my undergraduate! I still get emails from students of a professor with my same name.

    Funny enough, for my name in google one of my blog posts shows up, the one where I revealed a flaw in MyBlogLog (that got on TechCrunch, TechMeme, etc). That’s the power of links though…most everyone linked with my name as the anchor text.

    Great post Andy, keep up the great work!

  • I think your number 1 tip can be the best one to use if you aren’t using the other tips.

    I also suggest that people see if the domain of their name is available and buy it. This gives them the ability to have an email address like mine (mark(at), which looks better on your resume. Most people will then go in and take a look at what is on that domain, so make sure to have a blog or site up for them to check out.

    It is usually pretty easy to get rankings for your name if you have it in the domain name.

  • Heh I was stunned to find my name avail. the other month. I snatched it up rather quick.

    I would agree with Mark. Probably the best tactic. I imagine potential employees like it when they google you to find any relevant info on you to find you own your own

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  • I completely agree; I have multiple friends that have attained terrific new job opportunities purely through their interaction in the blogosphere, commenting on blogs and getting in communication with others out there with similar interests and related business ventures.

    To be honest, you can get a lot more insight about somebody from a well authored blog than you can from a strategically crafted resume any day.


  • Damn MP I was thinking my article I wrote a couple of months ago about ‘stopping myspace ruining your job prospects’ was pretty inventive…

  • I am so mad at my parents for naming me Mike Miller. How am I supposed to brand that? When I got married, we talked briefly about me using my wife’s last name instead of mine just to have a little more unique of a name but never went through with it.

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  • You could always register mikemiller(city or state).com or – something that still gets your name in there.

  • Mike – You could also do like Andy suggested but attach your industry or job title. or or something similar.

    It really isn’t that hard to brand yourself online. I had the same fear (my name is shared by a world famous Mexican boxer and my last name is very common) but was surprised how I began to dominate keywords around my name after some time.

  • While I may have the pain of mispronunciation on my surname, at least I only have to contend with one other Simon Heseltine in the world 🙂

    As for the article, I do have to confess that I have done searches on potential, and current, employees. Better I find out what’s out there than a customer / potential customer…

  • I always do web searches on prospective employees. Sometimes they are fruitless, and other times you hit gold. It does factor in to the decision of whether an interview is coming their way or not.

    Thanks for the link to your beginners guide to online reputation monitoring and management Andy. I missed that one last year. Glad to add it to my arsenal now.

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  • Buying is a great way to start creating your brand. This will help control what comes up in Google when someone is looking for you. Also it is a good idea to sign up for a lot of social networks so you can control what information is out there on you and make sure that it is consistent. And yes it is a good idea to clean up anything incriminating out there that could potentially cost you getting the job offer. At we aim to establish a student’s personal brand early so they can get the job of their dreams and love what they do. By establishing an online presence to control what comes up in Google while staying true to their brand, they should have no problem getting the job they want and deserve.