I caught a television news interview with an anti-doping expert this week and, whilst her words and delivery were convincing, my attention strayed to the background behind her. I got the impression she was filming herself from her own computer, sat at her desk with a home office set-up visible in the background.
Like many home offices, shelving dominated, packed with files, books, and other paraphernalia that gets called upon in the course of day-to-day work. I could make out the titles of several books that corroborated her title and stance – books on sports and how they were governed. She wasn’t focusing on what was behind her but, nevertheless, this lady’s physical background gave depth to her interview and played a role in increasing her credibility.
Her physical background had me convinced, however, if I’d remembered her name and Googled her, I’m sure I’d be rewarded with countless matches – from her organisation, from LinkedIn, from industry events, interviews, and more.
It got me thinking about the ‘background’ candidates consciously and inadvertently present online, and how it affects their employability.
The purpose of a background search of any kind is to discover more about an individual. Today, a simple Google search on a specific candidate can throw up a tonne of relevant information or nothing at all. Both of these scenarios can lead recruiters and hiring managers to draw their own conclusions.
A positive background search will enable the searcher to verify information they already hold, so that they can be positive you are who you say you are. It should also allow them to uncover additional evidence of your skills, experience, and potential, thus building your case for employment.
An unsuccessful background search will leave the searcher scratching their head, unable to verify the stated facts presented on your CV. They may even struggle to find you online at all, leaving them wondering about your lack of profile.
CareerBuilder’s 2015 social media recruitment survey found that 51% of hiring managers use search engines to research candidates and more than a third (35%) of employers are less likely to interview candidates they can’t find online. Once found, employers aren’t necessarily looking for information to rule you out, as six in 10 surveyed are “looking for information that supports their qualifications for the job” and 32% of those surveyed found information which supported the candidate’s application.
So, how should you take charge of your personal search results and ensure that the returns play out in your favour? Here are five areas of digital turf you can confidently ring-fence for your job search:
Technically, this could be combined with point #2, yet LinkedIn is so important, I felt it deserved its own section. LinkedIn often dominates search results for individual names, so maintaining a LinkedIn profile that is clearly about you is essential to return a positive match.
First of all, make sure you have a LinkedIn profile, then check that your name, headline, photo, and industry details are clearly about you, rather than a namesake.
Next, check that your LinkedIn profile is complete, verifying and enhancing the information already presented on your CV. If you are confident in displaying a comprehensive profile to a broad professional network, this can reassure the searcher, convincing them of your sincerity and reputation. LinkedIn recommendations and endorsements will also enhance your standing.
To provide deeper insight, consider using LinkedIn’s publishing feature, showcasing a video or interview on your profile, or engaging in LinkedIn groups.
#2 Social Media
Do each and every one of your social bios reflect your professional offering and status, as outlined on your CV?
Are you tweeting about the latest industry news, sharing tips or photos from industry events, or interacting with individuals and organisations with the same professional interests?
Are you showcasing your visual portfolio on Pinterest or Instagram, or involved in relevant Twitter chats and communities on Google+? Are you sharing relevant video tips or insights on YouTube?
Social media timelines offer a real-time insight into your interests and activities, highlighting your thoughts and focus right now. This is invaluable for recruiters and would-be employers hoping to discover more of the real you.
If a search only throws up unconnected social chatter, it won’t support your professional profile, and may even put your reputation at risk. Double check purely social profiles are kept private, and that public profiles reflect your professional goals.
#3 Blog or Personal Website
Perhaps you blog or have a personal website. If so, check it’s up to date and reflects your current professional interests and aspirations. If you don’t have a dedicated site on which to share your professional musings, consider using LinkedIn Publisher as a platform.
#4 Organisational Profiles
Your current organisation may feature your bio on their website, and this can be telling in more ways than one. If it doesn’t reflect your here and now, consider a refresh to make sure it does. Earlier this year, I read a jokey bio that had the potential to disrupt the candidate’s job search. Luckily we located and addressed it before her job search got properly underway.
#5 Industry Events
If you’ve been invited to speak at an industry event, your bio may feature on the event website, so make sure it reflects your main messages and the professional strengths you want to promote. Even if you haven’t been invited to present, you can engage on event forums or share event highlights on your social profiles, linking yourself as someone interested in lifelong learning and development.