A positive reputation is important for everyone, but it’s especially important for job seekers. Employers today are researching candidates online before extending job offers, and they want to be impressed. Gone are the days when it was enough just to not have anything negative pop up: these days, you’ll need to show that you can take initiative and build a positive reputation online. They want to see positive signs that you’re the right candidate, and it’s up to you to put them there.

Maybe you haven’t done anything wrong to earn a bad reputation online — but that doesn’t mean employers will be impressed. In fact, they may be bothered that there’s a lack of information available about you online. Ultimately, they need to see that you’re active, positive, and involved online — and if you can deliver on this, they’ll be more likely to extend a job offer. Plus, developing a positive online reputation can help you build a strong network, become a trusted expert, and deepen your industry knowledge and access to resources. The bottom line: a great reputation can back you up when you need it most.

Employers Are Researching Candidates Online: What Are They Looking For?

We live in an age of information, and it has employers and recruiters wanting more. They want to go past what’s on your resume, cover letter, and references. They want to know more about your personality, how well you’ll fit with company culture, how much you know about your industry, if you’re trustworthy, a team player, and whether or not others respect you as an authority. They want to know all of this, and so much more.

Almost every company in America uses online reputation, and social media in particular, as a recruiting tool. With 92% of companies using social media and social networks to find top talent it’s clear you just can’t ignore the power of online reputation in your job search.

You should expect that employers will be researching your reputation and history online. Often, employers research candidates around the same time they call references. In a sense, your online reputation is your new employer reference.

And while knowing that employers are checking out your life online might feel a little invasive or even creepy, research shows that for many employees, the result of online reputation searches is positive. A recent survey shows that candidates who have been researched online are more likely to be hired, plus their hires typically last for three or more years.

Ultimately, most employers are looking for signs that you’re a positive influence. No, it’s not OK just to not have anything about you online. Employers want to see positive signs, not just an absence of negative ones. Nearly 50% of hiring managers say that social media helps them determine a good fit within the company. They’re looking to make sure that you are who you say you are and that others have faith in your abilities. Employers want to see if you’re influential in your industry, if you’re connected, knowledgeable, and others turn to you as an expert.

Some employers may find it suspicious if you have nothing to show for yourself online. They may wonder if you have something to hide. Additionally, not having anything to show for your online reputation leaves you open to negative attacks. If there’s nothing positive about you online, a negative entry is that much more damaging.

Why It’s Essential to Your Job Search That You Build a Positive Online Reputation

Developing a positive online reputation allows you to put yourself in your best light, showing your most flattering professional personality to employers when they search for you — and they will. It’s also preventive medicine, stopping a negative reputation before it can start. With a good reputational foundation, you’re less likely to be at risk for a negative attack. But with nothing about you online, a single negative entry could do all of the talking for you.

Being responsible for your own reputation gives you a voice and the opportunity to influence the online conversation about you. Creating your own content, links, and social profiles gives you control over what people, and employers in particular, are seeing about you.

Essentially, building your online reputation allows you to develop your own online resume. You can build resources for employers to discover and learn more about you and the work that you’ve done. Your online reputation can show off your strengths and expertise, as well as your personality and network. It can tell employers when they’ve found the right candidate, and ultimately, is likely to help you secure more interviews and job offers in your search.

How You Can Develop a Positive Reputation for Your Job Search

Clearly, it is important that you develop a positive online reputation that will support you in your job search. But how? We’ve outlined essential steps you need to take in order to get started building your positive online reputation, even if you’re new to getting established online.

Get started today. There’s no time like the present. Not tomorrow, not next week, TODAY. It’s important to establish a presence now, especially if you’re in the middle of a job search. Employers are looking today, so don’t wait to give them something to find. Plus, developing a deeply positive online presence takes time, so the earlier you can get started, the better. But any steps you can take today to develop your reputation will help move you in the right direction.

Using Social Media as a Professional

Social media is a fun tool for connecting with family, friends, and even colleagues, but it’s more than just a social tool, it’s a professional one as well. Social media is an outstanding resource for developing a positive online reputation, allowing you to establish a professional online identity, connect with others, and show employers what you’re all about.

  • Claim your online identity: It’s essential that you claim important online properties to establish your personal brand online. While you don’t have to sign up for every opportunity, don’t miss the big ones like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Even if you’re not ready to become active yet, it’s important that you sign up for your profiles, claim vanity URLs, and establish your presence on major websites before someone else has a chance to do it.
  • Be a real person: Employers searching for you online are looking for the real you, so don’t hesitate to give it to them. Use your real name so that search results reflect the real you. Share full details, including a photo that features your face.
  • Back up what’s on your resume: Often, employers want to see information that supports what you’ve shared on your resume. This information makes you more credible and trustworthy. Connect with employers and coworkers on LinkedIn, post photos of your projects at work, and share recommendations to show that you really have been there and done that.
  • Connect with others: Add connections with everyone you legitimately know. This can include friends, family, colleagues, classmates, and especially mentors. Developing a strong network shows that you’re trusted by many.
  • Respond to interactions: Show that you’re personable and friendly by responding to others, especially when they interact with you. Comment back if someone says something about a photo, or mentions you on Twitter. Say thanks for endorsements and connections on LinkedIn.
  • Highlight your skills: While you don’t want to come off as arrogant or self-centered, social media is a good place to show off. Highlight your accomplishments and what you’re good at. Of course, you should also take time to applaud the skills and accomplishments of others. Use social media as your own online portfolio with accomplishments, linking to projects, events, and other moments in your professional life that you’re proud of.
  • Use a professional photo: If you want to project a professional persona (and you should), it’s important to use a professional photo. You may love how you look in a photo from your latest beach vacation, but sunglasses and a drink is probably not the message you want to send to employers. Invest in a professional head shot that you can use on social media, your domain, blog, guest posting opportunities, discussion boards, and more. With a great photo to share of yourself that’s spread widely online, you can dominate image search results for your name.
  • Add keywords to your profiles: Ask any recruiter out there: keywords can get you hired. These days, employers don’t read everything, not even your resume. Instead, they perform searches, using keywords and other parameters to find the right candidates. Have the right keywords on your resume and profiles, and you’ll be found. If not, your profiles may never see the light of day, at least where employers are concerned. Use opportunities to add keywords from your area of expertise in headlines, bios, and more. Consider using words like your desired job title, important skills in your industry, and areas of expertise. Of course, be careful not to go overboard. Keywords should fit naturally into the text on your profiles rather than dominate over your personality and make you sound like a robot.
  • Ask for social proof: One of the most powerful ways social media can help your reputation and job search is with social proof. Essentially, your contacts can back up your good name with reviews, endorsements, recommendations, and positive comments. One specific way you can ask for social proof is to encourage former employers or coworkers to leave recommendations for you on LinkedIn. You should do the same, as it’s a great way to build positive rapport, and your glowing comments for others will show on your profile as well.
  • Join relevant groups: Learn from others and show that you’re tuned in to the industry by joining and becoming active in relevant groups. A particularly good idea is to seek out groups on LinkedIn, where you can find like-minded professionals in your area of specialty and expertise. These groups can not only support your positive reputation, they can grow your network and help you get connections that may lead to employment opportunities.
  • Connect with influencers: Go beyond your small circle of friends, family, and coworkers to reach out to those you admire in your industry. Social media offers a great opportunity for getting to know key people, learning from them, and taking part in discussions with them. Plus, your connection with influencers will make your reputation grow by association.
  • Show your knowledge: Employers want to see that you know your stuff, so be sure to let them know that’s the case. Show off your knowledge of the industry with links and thoughtful contributions to conversations that show you understand what’s going on.

Developing Your Online Presence

Though sometimes it’s hard to believe, there is an online world beyond social media. For individuals developing a positive online reputation, there’s no denying the power of building your own website to support your personal brand. And while striking out on your own can be intimidating for some, especially those who aren’t experienced online, it doesn’t have to be difficult.

  • Buy your own domain: Most domains can be registered for less than $10 per year. Resources like Namecheap and 1&1 will help you get registered, and can even offer hosting options if you need them. Ideally, you’ll register yourname.com. If that’s not available, consider variations including .net/.org/.info, or variations of your name, such as adding your middle or maiden name.
  • Build your website: This can be as easy or as extensive as you’d like. For many people, a simple WordPress blog offers more than enough opportunity to establish a positive online presence. You can build something as simple as a short biography and resume. The Ultimate Guide to Building a Personal Website offers a great resource that explains everything you need to know when building a personal website to support your online reputation.
  • Develop an About page: More than anything, employers want to see what you say about yourself. Take the time to write a short biography, with links, photos, and other resources to back up your good name. Share links to press, your accomplishments, and more. This is really your chance to shine, so show off and don’t hold back.
  • Build a portfolio: If you want to really show off (and you should), start a portfolio on your website. This is a great place to show off photos of projects, explain your accomplishments, link to work you’ve done, and more. And it goes way beyond what you can share on a simple resume.
  • Start a blog: Everyone has something they’re knowledgeable about. It’s a great idea to start a blog, sharing your thoughts and important content. This is one of the best ways to stay on top of search results for your name with the kind of content that employers want to see: professional, well written resources that show off your expertise. You don’t have to share a big post every week, but it’s a good idea to stay on top of thoughtful topics to help show employers that you’re informed. Discuss relevant industry news, post about topics you know best, and share your expertise.
  • Produce your own content: Even if you’re not running a blog, it’s a good idea to produce your own content. Develop pages that show off your expertise, or write posts for others. Be a voice for yourself before others have a chance to speak for you.

Networking Online for Reputation Management

Being established online is more than showing off what you know — it’s who you know. Having a strong network supports a positive reputation, sending a signal to employers that you’re well connected, trustworthy, and involved in your industry. You should seek out connections with others and cultivate positive networking opportunities to show employers that you have an audience that trusts and respects you. Plus, developing a great network often leads to more job opportunities, so building your reputation in this way can pay off in more ways than one.

  • Get connected with a strong network of professionals: Whether you’re connecting on social media, online discussions, through blogs, or simply by email, it’s essential that you develop a network of professionals you can call on. Being connected to influential people makes you look better by association, and it never hurts to have friends on your side, especially when you’re in the middle of a job search.
  • Be a people connector: Be known as the person who knows everyone, capable of making great connections for others. This can help you earn a positive reputation as a person who works well with others and is trusted by many.
  • Nurture your contacts: Stay in touch with your network, reaching out personally to send out updates with news you think your contacts would like to see, plus quick updates about what’s new with you. You should always be helpful, offering introductions to others, assistance with projects, and more. It’s best to offer value to your network without expecting anything in return — eventually it will come back around to you, and may even help you get a job!
  • Be supportive: Show that you’re a team player by being supportive of others. Applaud their accomplishments, and show your excitement for them when they’ve done something great. Some day, they can do the same for you.
  • Get connected offline: While it’s important to build a great reputation online, you don’t have to do all of your connecting online. Get connected offline by volunteering or getting involved in professional organizations. Of course, be sure to bring it back online with posts, photos, and discussions about what you’re up to.
  • Get listed: If you’re joining professional organizations, make sure you get listed in their directories. Often, professional organization directories are published publicly and may be found on Google searches for your name.
  • Make the right connections: Remember that you don’t have to look far to get started with your network. Current coworkers and business associates can serve as the front line of your network and help you branch out to more contacts. Connect with recruiters, employers too. They want to interact with you online and often, connecting online, typically through social media, offers a great outlet for connecting that you might not have access to elsewhere.

Be An Expert

Everyone wants to know an expert, and expert status can earn you respect, trust, and a great reputation. You may not see yourself as an expert — yet — but chances are, there’s something you know more about than anyone else, and it’s time to capitalize on that knowledge. Keep in mind that 14% of employers view a large online following as positive.

  • Write publicly: The best way to take advantage of your knowledge and use it to develop a positive online reputation is to write publicly as an expert. Develop articles for your own blog, and share with others as a contributor. Even a single well written article can help you stand out in search results, but write more, and you can really shine.
  • Aim high as a contributor: Look to professional journals and mainstream media in addition to blogs and online news sites. Of course, if you are able to contribute to high level publications, be sure to link back to it so that employers can see what you’ve done.
  • Become a trusted source: Establish relationships with journalists in your industry. Let them know your areas of expertise, and encourage them to call on you for quotes an advice as they are working on news stories. You can also check in with Help A Reporter Out to find out what journalists need help with today. This is a great way to get cited as an expert both online and off.
  • Write press releases: A great way to get in the news is to present an easy to use package to news outlets with a press release. Develop a press release any time you’ve done something newsworthy, like speak at a conference or join a new firm.
  • Join and create discussions: Contribute to public discussion groups as an expert. Resources like LinkedIn groups, industry blogs, and Quora can really set you apart and help you establish a reputation as a knowledgeable professional.

Be Consistently Awesome

Of course, earning a great reputation is more than signing up for the right websites, knowing the right people, and paying attention to details online. It’s about what you do every day, at work, within your network, and even in your personal life. Being a positive force on a consistent basis is a great way to earn a reputation that employers want to see.

  • Deliver on your promises: If you make a promise, keep it, and do so consistently. Offer a positive experience for everyone that works with you.
  • Be reliable and trustworthy: Let others rely on you, knowing that you’ll always deliver, and deliver well.
  • Present a consistent persona: Whether you’re interacting online in social networks, discussions, blogs, or guest posts, or just saying hello in an elevator or at a community event, be yourself and present a consistent professional version of yourself. People want to know they’re getting the real you, no matter their method of interaction with you.
  • Be active offline: Take part in networking, volunteering, community and industry activism, and more. Develop your strong reputation offline, but remember to bring it back online with photos, updates, and blog posts about events so that employers can see you’re active.

Helpful Online Reputation Tools

Building a positive online reputation can be an overwhelming task sometimes, but with useful tools, you can stay organized and on top of it all. Check out these great tools for job seekers building a positive online reputation.

  • LinkedIn: The ultimate networking resource online, LinkedIn allows you to establish a great reputation with a full online profile and recommendations, plus develop a strong, supportive network.
  • KnowEm: Not sure which social networks you’ve signed up for, and which you still need to cover? This tool will help you find them all, plus research more than 150 domain names. KnowEm is the ultimate tool for claiming your online reputation.
  • HootSuite: Manage social media like a professional. This tool will help you stay organized and on top of all your social interactions online.
  • Help A Reporter Out: Get quoted as an expert in news stories with Help A Reporter Out. This tool connects expert sources (that’s you!) with reporters who need them, and it’s a great way to get free publicity.
  • Quora: Give the people what they want: your expertise. Show off your knowledge as an expert by answering questions on this well respected website.
  • Namecheap: Get set up with your own domain name on Namecheap, and you’ll be one step closer to developing a strong online presence.
  • WordPress: Using WordPress, either as a blog or publishing platform, can help you get your name out there and start building your online reputation. WordPress is well known for its easy to use blogging resources.

Quick Tips for Building a Positive Reputation for Your Job Search

Building a positive online reputation as a job seeker can be as easy or as hard as you want it to be. Put in more effort, and you’ll see a greater reward, but keep in mind that even small steps can help you stand out positively online.

  • Understand employers are searching for your online reputation: There’s no denying it, employers are checking out your reputation online. Give them something great to find out about you.
  • Connect socially: Use social media as a professional to stand out and contribute to your positive online reputation.
  • Be a real person: Make it easy for employers to identify your professional online activities by using your real name, photo, and your genuine personality.
  • Back up your resume: Show employers that you’re the real deal with resources that support what you’ve shared on your resume. Connections with employers, photos or links to projects, and other evidence that you are who you say you are can be incredible helpful for building trust.
  • Create your own content: Develop a positive reputation as a knowledgeable professional by developing your own website or blog and being featured as a contributor.
  • Nurture your network: Connect with others online and support them when they need you. They’ll be around to help you when you need it most.
  • Be part of the discussion: Let employers know that you’re helpful and knowledgeable, plus, earn positive links for your search results by adding your voice to discussions with thoughtful replies.
  • Offer your expertise: Show off your knowledge by being featured as an expert. Write press releases, connect with journalists, and offer help to those who are asking questions you can answer with authority.
  • Be worthy of a great reputation: Consistently deliver a positive experience for everyone you work and connect with. Be a credible source, a trustworthy ally, and a supportive contact.

For a full guide to managing your online reputation, visit our Ultimate Guide to Online Reputation Management. In addition to resources for building a positive reputation as a job seeker, this guide includes tips for repairing, improving, and monitoring your reputation.