When you're out looking for a job, your online presence and reputation are everything. In today's job market, it's not only extremely easy for recruiters and hiring managers to look you up on the Internet, but also it's become a best practice for these key hiring professionals. The fact is that the vast majority of companies now look up applicants online to get a more accurate picture of who they consider hiring. For some, this can be a huge asset, but for others, it may be what causes them to get passed up for an interview. Even if you have the best resume and cover letter of the bunch, one negative link in a Google search can be detrimental. Of course, there are numerous ways to make yourself look more presentable in search engines. Therefore, personal search engine optimization (SEO) is imperative to your job search. Here are five tips for managing your personal SEO:
1. Search yourself often
If you don't know what information about yourself is out on the Internet, there's no way to properly manage it. Regularly type your name into search engines such as Google and Bing and see what results appear on the first page. Ideally, it will all be positive and expected web pages on which there is no professionally questionable content. Make a habit of doing this often so that you become aware as soon as possible of potentially harmful materials.
2. Create an online portfolio or website
Creating one location for all of your professional resources isn't only good for your SEO, but also provides a useful tool to include on job applications. When applying for jobs online, most positions will have an optional box to attach a personal website or portfolio. Take advantage of this space by building an easily accessible online portfolio that will prove to employers that you're willing to go the extra mile.
3. Cover up negative content
The Internet can often be an unforgiving place, and it may be near impossible to remove bad content attached to your name. The fact is, once it's one the Web, it's pretty much permanent. While you could waste a lot of time and energy trying to get it removed – which is rarely successful – the better thing to do is push your positive content higher in search rankings. When using Google or another search engine, most people don't go past the first page. If you can push any potentially unfavorable content to page two, it's much less likely to be seen by employers, colleagues or anyone else.
4. Broaden your social reach
If you're still only on Facebook, odds are you're not casting a wide enough social net. Your personal SEO will grow as you create professional accounts for other social networks such as Google+, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn and so on. The more active you are on these pages, the more likely they are to pop up near the top of your personal search rankings. Also, remember you can often link your pages to create a more complete network of friends, peers, colleagues, coworkers and other professionals.
5. Post positive content
People often hide behind the guise of the Internet to leave nasty and inappropriate comments. Not only is this conduct rude, but if it's traced back to you it can be hazardous to your job search. Rather than mope, complain, taunt or groan, focus on producing positive online content. This is not to say you can't be opinionated, however, remember that anything too polarizing could potentially turn off those viewing your pages.