February 6, 2010

The Importance of an Online Presence/Online Reputation Management or "How the Internet Can Help or Hurt Your Job Prospects"

With the omnipresence of social networking sites in today's world you need to stay connected for most things. I know one person out of hundreds of friends and acquaintances who doesn't have Facebook. He says that he is sometimes left out of events because people assume everybody has Facebook so that becomes the sole form of communication about the event. But besides connecting with friends about a party or concert this weekend Facebook and other social networking sites have important implications for your professional life. A recent careerbuilder.com survey found that forty-five percent of employers use social networking sites (mostly Facebook and LinkedIn to research job candidates. The findings surrounding why employers disregarded or hired candidates after searching their online profiles.

Why Employers Disregarded Candidates After Screening Online
Job seekers are cautioned to be mindful of the information they post online and how they communicate directly with employers. Thirty-five percent of employers reported they have found content on social networking sites that caused them not to hire the candidate. The top examples cited include:
  • Candidate posted provocative or inappropriate photographs or information - 53 percent
  • Candidate posted content about them drinking or using drugs - 44 percent
  • Candidate bad-mouthed their previous employer, co-workers or clients - 35 percent
  • Candidate showed poor communication skills - 29 percent
  • Candidate made discriminatory comments - 26 percent
  • Candidate lied about qualifications - 24 percent
  • Candidate shared confidential information from previous employer - 20 percent
Fourteen percent of employers have disregarded a candidate because the candidate sent a message using an emoticon such as a smiley face while 16 percent dismissed a candidate for using text language such as GR8 (great) in an e-mail or job application.
Why Employers Hired Candidates After Screening Online
Job seekers are also encouraged to leverage social media when advertising their skills and experience.Eighteen percent of employers reported they have found content on social networking sites that caused them to hire the candidate. The top examples include:
  • Profile provided a good feel for the candidate’s personality and fit - 50 percent
  • Profile supported candidate’s professional qualifications - 39 percent
  • Candidate was creative - 38 percent
  • Candidate showed solid communication skills - 35 percent
  • Candidate was well-rounded - 33 percent
  • Other people posted good references about the candidate - 19 percent
  • Candidate received awards and accolades - 15 percent

So it's important to not only refrain from having potentially harmful content on Facebook/other sites but also having positive mentions of your work.

Facebook, in terms of college graduate job hunting to me is not a very attractive medium for connecting professionally as it blurs the distinction between the personal and the professional. Some would be well-advised to keep their personal lives: casual conversations with friends, weekend activities, inane (I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER?) and insane (Petition to Remove the Communist Regime of B. Hussein Obama) to themselves and close friends. It kind of reminds me of the Seinfeld episode with George's Worlds Collide Theory:

But if for some reason you do want your worlds to collide and open your
Facebook account open to potential employers I would recommend at a minimum keeping Facebook contacts down to a minimum and using privacy features that everybody should be aware of in order to limit who has access to your photos, notes, and personal information to those who legitimately need to see it. Especially with fairly regular accusations of privacy infringements (including one that has led to a new investigation by Canada's Privacy Commissioner) it's important to actively protect your information.

Above: my public LinkedIn profile

As I mentioned earlier I created an online profile on LinkedIn to promote my education and work experience to promote myself online. I am not as optimistic as some are that sites like this alone will lead to job opportunities but it is a crucial part of the job search process to have an account there to make your online resume one of the first results when potential employers research you online. Search-engine optimization is a field all it's own but just as an example of how anonymous and prominent your content can be online based on the context. A search of "Geoff Campbell" on google.ca returns results concerning: Geoff Campbell, a fictional character on the Australian soap opera Home and Away; Geoff Campbell Reality Inc., a North Carolina Realty Company; Geoff Campbell Vice-President, Video Business Development for Sony DADC based in Los Angeles among many other Geoff Campbells who are not me.

However, a search for "Geoff Campbell Mount Allison" returns results mostly about me, including posts on this blog, a directory of the 44 Geoff Campbells on Linkedin, articles I've written for the Argosy (Mount Allison's Student Newspaper) and my steprep.com profile. Search result ranking have to do not only with how often sites are updated (results of fresh content appear higher) but with the respectability of the site according to google (based on links with reputable sites among other things). That's why interlinking between say, your Twitter page, Linkedin Profile, and other positive mentions are important.

Outspoken Media's
Online Reputation Management Guide is one of the best advice manuals I've found relating to promoting yourself online.


  1. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

  2. Just goes to show that no matter how innocent you may want to believe it, EVERYTHING you do online will basically come back on you.