A quick Google search is all it takes for someone to decide whether they want to work with you.
Whether you’re applying to jobs, competing for clients, running a business or even requesting a loan, the majority of U.S. adults will now research you online first.
And what they find can make or break landing your next gig, client or investor.
I learned this the hard way.
When I was in college, employers Googled me as part of the screening process. But instead of finding my experience, they found something very different — a drug dealer with the same name.
With one quick Google search, they mistook me for a criminal. I didn’t even have a chance to explain myself. I’d lost the job before I could defend my good name.
This case of mistaken identity made me realize just how much our online presence impacts our actual lives.
The more I looked into it, the more I saw the massive trend rising. Over a billion names were Googled every single day, yet almost nobody was accurately represented online.
Reams of studies from CareerBuilder, Microsoft, Kaplan and more show that you’ll now be searched at nearly every stage of your life. And what shows up directly impact your career.
As we continually hop from one opportunity to the next, changing jobs on average every 18 months, our online presence follows us. And it affects our life at every step.
Amidst the chaos, we need a way to manage our online presence. To understand what’s helping us online, what’s hurting us, and what we can do about it.
In the same way we monitor our Credit Report because it helps us understand our financial health with lenders, we deserve to know the risk factors and positive factors online that are impacting our life.
And that’s exactly what we’ve spent the past several years building at BrandYourself.
This post explains how we built the world’s first comprehensive Reputation Report to empower everyone to take control of their online identity.
The rise of search engines and social media has drastically altered today’s career landscape.
Studies show that you’ll now get screened online at virtually every stage of your career:
Applying to jobs: Three in four hiring managers are now required to screen candidates online, and 70% use sophisticated screening tools to do “deep searches” on social media. They’re using algorithms to surface any potentially inappropriate content. (Like that offhanded joke you made about watching Game of Thrones instead of going to work). With a stack of resumes piled high, even one red flag can land you in the reject pile.
Freelancing: In today’s global economy, you’ll be compared to competitors long before you land a gig. 65% of people admit to researching freelancers online before hiring them. With a global marketplace to choose from, what people find online can make or break your next project proposal.
Running a company: As an executive, your reputation is your company’s reputation. 85% of businesspeople look up the CEO before working with a company. Your search results and social media profiles directly impact your bottom line, your ability to attract top employees and court investors. You can no longer ignore your digital footprint.
Applying to school: Over half of college admissions look up students online before admitting them. Take Harvard for example, which recently rescinded admissions to 10 students because of posts published on Facebook. The way you act on social media is a barometer for your cultural fit at a school, so it’s increasingly part of the screening process.
Hiring talent: 92% of potential recruits look up companies online before taking job offers. And what they find impacts their decision to work for your business. (Jobvite)
Earning press: 80% of journalists consider search engines one of the most important sources of information for their job. That means content about you online will provide the backdrop to your story, whether you like it or not. (Recherche and eddielogic)
Buying/renting a home: 18% of landlords look up potential tenants online to help determine trustworthiness. Yep, it really matters. (Chicago Tribune)
Borrowing money: For the 19.3% of adult Americans who don’t have credit records, credit worthiness is assessed via online content. There are few areas your online presence doesn’t matter anymore. (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau)
Dating: 43% of online U.S. adults have researched a potential date on the web. It’s now the first place we turn to learn about each other. (Source: Harris Study)
If you’re invisible online, you’re missing out on opportunities.
Over half of employers are less likely to interview you if they can’t find you online. Hiring managers expect to find websites and profiles that back up your qualifications online. If you don’t show up at all, they’re less likely to interview you. Candidates appear more trustworthy if content on the web validates achievements.
Being invisible prevents you from attracting the opportunities you don’t even know about yet. Nine out of ten of recruiters look for potential hires on social media. If they can’t find you, you’re missing out on potential opportunities. A visible online presence helps attract employers and clients searching for someone just like you. Whether they find you depends on how well you’ve established your online presence.
Although it may be tempting to stay invisible online, it’s no longer a strategic career move. Today, you need to actually show up on the web to maximize your opportunities.
Bad things happen to good people online, which can cost you jobs and clients:
Inevitably over the course of your career, someone will say something unfavorable about you. Especially when the stakes are high, like when you’re hiring, firing, or providing services on a deadline, people get heated and say things they shouldn’t. Even if you’re the best person in the world at your job, circumstances will arise that make someone unhappy at some point. That’s just the reality of doing business.
In the past this wasn’t a problem because conversations happened privately behind closed doors. But today what people say about you is permanently stored on servers that anyone can find in Google. It only takes a second for someone to publish an unfair review, biased news article, or thoughtless post about you. If they even mention your name once, it can show up in search engines forever. Unless you published it yourself, strong free speech laws make it virtually impossible to delete (especially in the U.S.).
What people say about you online stays online, and can overshadow a lifetime building a great reputation. Just look at the one tweet that blew up Justine Sacco’s life forever. Without a strong online presence to protect you, a single remark by someone can end up showing up on your first page of Google — and defining your reputation. We all need much better tools to monitor what people are saying about us online, ensure the web portrays an honest reflection of ourselves, and minimize damage done by unfair misrepresentations.
People who proactively build a strong online presence win more opportunities.
86% of U.S. recruiters and HR professionals say that a positive online reputation influences their hiring decisions.
It’s how one of my buddies landed his dream job Google — purely through his online presence.
Potential employers and clients are looking for trust signals that reinforce your qualifications. They want to find information online that validates you’d be a good fit. They’re looking for everything from evidence of your experience to industry knowledge to proactive engagement in your field.
All things being equal, you’ll win out over the next person if you look better online. Fair or not, it’s reality. And ignoring it will only make the problem worse.
We built the world’s first Reputation Report to help you understand and improve your online reputation.
In January 2018, my company BrandYourself.com released flagship software that makes it easy for you to clean up and improve your online reputation.
It’s a remarkable feat of technology that I’d love to share.
Your free Reputation Report helps you understand all the Risk Factors and Positive Factors that are currently impacting your career.
Your Reputation Score is the only technology that scours the web and matches your presence against a comprehensive known database of red flags and reinforcing factors that employers use to screen you.
For the first time ever, you can confidently understand how much your online presence is helping or hurting your career.
We compiled hundreds of studies and interviews with hiring managers to define exactly what helps and hurts you.
Your Reputation Builder walks you through the process of improving your Reputation Score.
We built intelligent software that learns who you are, then recommends the highest-impact steps you can take to improve your online presence.
Not only is it tailored to you based on what employers look for in your specific industry, but it reminds you over time what you need to do to keep up your online presence.
From alerts (“your Twitter just rose 2 positions onto the first page of Google”) to suggestions (“delete your 5 flagged social posts that might be interpreted as unprofessional”), it makes it really easy to navigate your online presence in today’s connected world.
Our technology helps you identify, minimize and monitor your Risk Factors online.
Our CleanSearch technology scans Google for any webpages that could hurt your reputation.
How our CleanSearch technology works:
We start by analyzing the domain name of every webpage in your top 100 Google results. If any contain content that could put your good name at risk, we let you know about it. That includes review sites, court records, gossip blogs, and much more.
Then we apply cutting-edge machine learning technology – which has been trained with our proprietary dataset of over 10 million Google hand-labeled Google results – to identify any webpages that might be leaving a bad first impression.
What kind of results do we scan for?
Unfair and misrepresentative news or press
Court records and legal documents
Bad reviews, complaints or comments
Sexually explicit content
What if you have an unflattering Google result?
Your best bet is to suppress unflattering results. You do this by creating, optimizing, and updating positive, relevant content that accurately tells your story. The goal is to contextualize any other results with content that paints the full picture of who you are. That way you’re not completely defined by a single negative Google result.
If you or someone you know has an unflattering Google result, here’s a quick intro on how to suppress Google results. You can also check out my guide how your Google results impact your life to learn more about the specific factors can help or hurt you in Google.
Our CleanPost technology scans your Facebook and Twitter for any unprofessional posts, then makes it easy to delete them.
How our CleanPost technology works:
Our technology will scan your Facebook and Twitter for posts and comments that contain keywords and phrases that cause employers to turn down candidates. It could be anything from ill-advised joke to talking about your hangover to mentioning playing hookie or calling in sick. Stuff you may have posted years ago and didn’t even realize could be putting your career at risk. Our ever-evolving dictionary of over 10,000 phrases and words helps catch anything that can be interpreted the wrong way.
Our machine learning engine has learned from over 20 million posts to identify additional red flags that cause hiring managers to reject candidates. If our keyword database misses something, A.I. will catch the subtler and more nuanced social media faux pas.
We scans posts for mentions of:
Unprofessional language or writing style
Negativity towards work or school (complaining about your job, saying you need a raise, etc.)
Strong language and profanity
Extremely polarizing views (taking strong stances on controversial topics)
Intolerant or tasteless remarks (often originally intended as jokes, but easily misinterpreted otherwise when taken out of context)
Bullying or threatening language (often originally intended as jokes as well, but potentially risky if viewed from an outsider’s perspective)
When your Social Scan is complete, you can then review and delete any that you don’t want potential employers or clients to find.
You can also turn on Deep Clean filters to identify any posts that even tangentially mention a potentially risky subject, like a former boss, a night of drinking, or any mild profanity.
It was it enlightening (and hilarious) for me to look back at my older posts before I was intentional about how I came across on social media.
I was surprised to unearth some seriously risqué comments I was tagged in I had no idea about.
Our CleanImage technology scans your Facebook and Twitter for any unprofessional or inappropriate photos, then helps you delete them.
How it works:
We scan your Facebook and Twitter (and Instagram soon) for objects or objects in photos that could cause employers to turn down candidates. Our machine learning engine has learned from over 5 million photos to identify images online that could hurt your career opportunities.
Our technology flags images that contain items including:
Sexually explicit behavior
When your scan is complete, you can then review and delete any images you wouldn’t want a potential employer or client to find.
Our Brand Builder technology helps you build an online presence that will win you more opportunities.
Our Reputation Engine technology walks you step-by-step through the process of crafting an impressive presence that maximizes your earning potential.
You get a customized Action Plan based on your industry that helps you:
Build the profiles and websites employers expect to find when they Google you. Remember: if you don’t show up in the right places when you’re searched, employers are statistically less likely to interview you.
Optimize the visibility of your online presence so that positive, relevant information appears when people Google your name.
Update your profiles in a way that demonstrates your industry expertise.
Grow your audience so that you have an engaged online network that will bring you more and better career opportunities.
Our Earnings Loss Calculator quantifies the money you may be losing because of your online presence, and tracks your improvement over time.
Here’s how it works:
We use the latest industry research to quantify the frequency with which you’re being screened online.
We quantify your Risk Factors that make employers less likely to hire you, and Positive Factors that make employers more likely to hire you.
We use salary, industry and location data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to calculate the difference between your current and potential salary, then pair it with the latest CareerBuilder and Microsoft studies to estimate potential income loss due to a) your Google results and b) your social media profiles.
We calculate your total Estimated Earning Potential, the rough annual income you may be leaving on the table by not improving your online presence.
This objective, research-backed approach is the best possible approximation of opportunities you may be losing because of your current online presence. As you complete your Action Plan you’ll improve this number.
Our mission is to empower everyone take take control of their own online reputation.
The web is a wild west of information, webpages, new articles, social media updates and a whole lot more. Managing your identity online shouldn’t be overwhelming. Yet it’s nearly impossible today without tools.
That’s why we made it our mission to empower everyone to put their best foot forward online.
To that end, here are a few core tenants we believe at BrandYourself:
People unfairly lose opportunities they deserve because their online presence doesn’t accurately reflect them. This gives an unfair edge to people who know how to promote themselves online versus people who are actually best fit for the job.
Since employers use sophisticated screening tools to research candidates, we should be able to use similar tools on ourselves before applying to jobs. We should be able to see what might show up in an online screening – and do something about it. Just like you can view your own credit report for free, we should be able to see our own Reputation Report for free.
Our web presence can be unfairly defined by what other people say about us. Things posted online lack context. We need help telling our full story so that we aren’t completely misrepresented by others.
In the next 3 years, your online reputation will become more important to your financial wellbeing than your Credit Report. While you sometimes need good credit to borrow money, you always need a good reputation to earn the income you deserve.
In conclusion, here are the most important takeaways from this article:
If you think your online reputation doesn’t matter, think again.
You’ll now get screened online at virtually every stage of your career.
Being invisible online will hurt you because you’ll miss out on opportunities.
Negative stuff can happen to anyone online, and lose you opportunities.
A positive online presence requires work, but will win you opportunities.
BrandYourself’s new software helps you clean up, improve and monitor your online reputation:
Reputation Report — find out what’s helping and hurting you, and whether you’d pass an online screening.
Reputation Builder — scan and minimize your risk factors, then build the positive content you want people to find when they search you online.
How we help minimize your risk factors:
Search results — see if there’s anything negative about you in Google, and suppress it with positive content that tells your story.
Social posts — see if you have unprofessional posts, and easily delete them.
Images — see if you have unprofessional images, and easily delete them.
How we help maximize positive factors:
Build the right profiles and content based on your industry.
Optimize your online presence to show up high in Google.
Update your online presence over time to keep your audience engaged.
Grow your network so that you attract the opportunities you deserve.
And if you’d rather an expert do it for you, we have:
Reputation management services for individuals
Reputation management services for businesses
If you haven’t taken it for a spin, head over to BrandYourself.com and get your free Reputation Report right now. At the very least, you’ll discover if you have any risk factors that could be putting your career at risk.