If a prospective employer researches your name online, what will come up? If you are a job seeker, your online image can make or break your job search. A fast-growing trend for employers is screening job applicants online using search engines and social-networking web sites. A 2009 CareerBuilder survey of more than 2,600 hiring managers revealed that forty-five percent of them use search engines and social networking sites to screen potential employees, which is a 23% increase from 2008. Online screening is quickly becoming a routine method of gathering information about job applicants.

Quick tips for managing your online image:  

1. Research yourself. Google your name and see what photos, videos and content comes up. (You can also use Google Alerts to find out what others are saying about you.) What image would the content create in the mind of a prospective employer?

2. Clean up your social networking sites. The CareerBuilder.com survey found that 29 percent of employers in their survey use Facebook, 26 percent use LinkedIn and 21 percent use MySpace. One-in-ten (11 percent) search blogs while 7 percent follow candidates on Twitter.

To help you evaluate what to eliminate, consider what employers have seen on social networking sites that has caused 35% of them not to hire a job candidate:

- Provocative or inappropriate photographs or information

- Content about drinking or using drugs

- Content that bad-mouthed their previous employer, co-workers or clients

- Poor communication skills

- Discriminatory comments

- Content that showed the candidate had lied about their background or qualifications

- Sharing of confidential information from previous employers

3. Invest time in creating a powerful, professional self-presentation online.

You can make social networking sites work for you and your job search. Eighteen percent of employers stated that the content they found on social networking sites encouraged them to hire a particular job candidate. Here are some of the reasons they gave for being positively influenced by a job seeker's social networking profile:

- Provided a good feel for the candidate's personality and fit with the organization

- Documented the candidate's professional qualifications

- Showed creativity

- Demonstrated good communication skills

- Showed candidate was well-rounded

- Provided good references from other people about the candidate

- Highlighted awards and accolades

In today's job market, the presentation of your professional image goes far beyond your resume and cover letter. Employers' first impressions of you can be enhanced or damaged by your online image. Take these simple steps to ensure that your online presence showcases your character, background and the exceptional qualities you have to offer to your next employer.

July 14, 2010

Kevin Brennfleck and Kay Marie Brennfleck, National Certified Career Counselors, are the authors of Live Your Calling: A Practical Guide to Finding and Fulfilling Your Mission in Life. Their websites, www.ChristianCareerCenter.com, www.ChurchJobsOnline.com, and www.ChristianJobFair.com, feature hundreds of job listings from churches, ministries, and Christian employers; a resume bank; and many other career/job search resources and articles. They also offer career coaching and testing to help you discover work that fits your God-given design, as well as assistance with writing a powerful resume, interviewing effectively, finding job openings, and other aspects of a successful job search.