Thursday, April 8, 2010

How Does Google Affect Your Job Search?

What does Google say about you? Why should a job seeker care?

Candidates should care, because employers care, recruiters care, HR personnel care.

Google can open opportunities for you ... or knock you out of contention. Not having anything listed about you in the first few Google pages may work against you. Then again, having negative results show up in the first few pages of Google can be damaging to your job search.

It may seem that Google is just a huge invasion of privacy, that it only causes problems in your search efforts. While Google can cause problems for your search, in most cases it only causes problems if you let it.

That's right, if you let it. You have some control over Google rankings, a process called Online Reputation Management (see

Don't get me wrong, you're never going to have total control over Google, but you can manage how Google searches on your name appear ... and the information that these searches reveal. Not every employer searches Google, but most recruiters and mid to large sized companies will as minimum due diligence.

Here's what you might find in a Google search on your name, and how it might affect your job prospects:
  • Nothing: Google returns information on others who share your name. If you've maintained that you are a subject matter expert, industry leader, or corporate executive, and you aren't showing up in the first three pages of Google, you look ineffective at best - misleading at worst.
  • Someone else's Google info: Do you want to risk a job on an employer knowing the difference between you and someone else who shares your name? If you do't manage your online reputation ... then someone else is managing it, especially if your name isn't unique. You might want to use a middle initial, shorter or longer first name derivation if you share the name of an embezzler who was just convicted on fraud charges.
  • Unfavorable information: If your name is very unique than some information may show up that's not as bad as fraud convictions, but you might not want your employer to see.
  • Old court cases or police arrest information: Have you ever been sued or arrested? Depending on locality and local newspaper practices, these records may end up on Google searches.
  • Real estate tax records: Real estate tax records or real estate transactions (including property value) may show on Google depending on locality and local newspaper practices.
  • Charitable and political donations: These may include dollar amount, political, religious or group affiliation
  • Potential embarrassments: Blog comments, Twitter or Facebook posts may be visible, depending the uniqueness of your name and what other information about you is on the web.
The scary part is that judgments are made about you through this information, generally without you having a chance to explain anything. In as competitive, litigious, and risk averse employee hiring is today, many employers will just pass on a candidate if they sense risk - without even asking questions. What can you do?
  1. Avoid surprises: Do an inventory of what's listed on Google searches of your name. Look through the first 5 pages, searching combinations of your full name, search with shortened first name, search under name and address, name and city, name and state, name and phone.

  2. If you find negative information: It's next to impossible to remove it, but you can shift it. You can manage where negative information is listed by generating information that ranks more highly than the information you wish to shift (see

  3. Others information: If your name is John Smith, and a different John Smith was just sentenced for some terrible crime, make sure to warn the hiring manager, recruiter or HR department ... or all three. Let them hear from you first that there will be some confusion, and you're not the same guy as the bank robber John Smith.

  4. Promote yourself: Google can work for you and can help you be found by employers and recruiters. One of the huge side effects of social media allows recruiters to search using Google ... these are some of the hottest seminars, blog topics, and ebooks out there for recruiters. Given how expensive the major job boards are for recruiters, it's a huge benefit for recruiters to find candidates without having to rely on Monster and CareerBuilder. By proactively usng Online Reputation Management to build your subject matter expertise band, you can make it easy to stand out and be found. This can even work safely for passive candidates, because you're found by subject matter expertise, not by your resume - you're found, but it's not obvious that you are looking.

  5. Fill out profiles: Fill out profiles on all the social networks you can find (there are hundreds of them - at a minimum fill out profiles for Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Plaxo, and more here: Fill out profiles with all the major search engines and free email services (Google/Gmail, Yahoo, Bing/MSN, Hotmail, AOL).

  6. Claim a blog Just claim it from a free service (the easiest is Blogger, and copy your basic Linkedin profile into a post). Use your name for the name of the blog.
These are some of the basic steps you can take to manage your reputation. I'll follow with subsequent articles on intermediate and advanced Online Reputation Management techniques that you can use to fine tune your subject matter expertise, and show up on employer searches for specific business problems.

That's when you can really have Google doing the hard lifting of your job search, so employers will come searching for you. Who would want that these days?

Have you searched Google for your own name lately? What does Google say about you? Any surprises?

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