Dear Matt: I keep reading about why it's important to develop my online brand. What is this and what role does it play in my job search? Are recruiters really searching for candidate information online?
Matt says: Wendy Benning, owner and managing director of St. Paul-based Verum Staffing (verumstaffing.com), a firm that hires scientists and science graduates, completed a 49-page research project as part of her Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership program from St. Catherine University in St. Paul, titled: How does online personal branding impact a recruiter's impressions of a job candidate?
Your online brand is your online presence -- how you come across professionally to those who find you online. Recruiters are searching for you via Google, Bing, Yahoo!, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, through blogs, and even on mylife.com, peekyou.com or pipl.com. One survey as part of the study showed that 78 percent of recruiters used search engines to research candidates, while over 60 percent used social networking sites. Only 27 percent relied on background checks in the initial stages.
Recruiters indicated there were four things in particular that affected their decisions about a candidate when researching them online:
1. Résumé/profile consistency. Recruiters will read your résumé at the same time they are researching you online. Do all the facts, years, jobs match up?
2. Presentation quality. Did you start a LinkedIn profile but never finished it? Incomplete information is a negative.
3. Grammar/spelling/language usage.
4. Unprofessional/inappropriate content.
If you're active on Facebook, it's not just your comments recruiters are looking at. In one survey, 43 percent said inappropriate comments from friends or relatives can influence a decision to reject a candidate. This has some people staying away from creating any type of online brand/presence, or believing that the less available about them online the better. But that can backfire.
"If you don't have information about yourself online, some recruiters could perceive you negatively," Benning said. "Recruiters are expecting you to be well networked within your industry. When they look for your name online and they see only a basic online personal brand, they may make a negative decision about you based on that information."
In the digital era, your job is to consistently build your credibility and visibility online.
"If you don't have any information or only basic information, the recruiter has to put more effort into getting information from you," said Benning, "and if you are competing with somebody that has their information already online, you may be passed up for the job."