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What do potential employers see when they Google you?

In a guest column, a lecturer at Queen's University Belfast offers tips for job-seekers to avoid getting tripped up by their digital footprint.

Every time we update our Facebook status, share a picture or send a tweet we are adding to our already growing digital footprint.

Despite so many people now living out their lives online, they still don't realise the extent of how much information they post online, in particular on social network websites, is far from private and available for everyone to see. Even potential employers.

In fact nearly half of recruiters and human resources professionals search personal sites when considering hiring you. It's no secret that companies and indeed recruiters check online results via search engines to learn more about a person and their background.

According to Execu.net, executive recruiters have adopted "googling" as best practice for job candidates. A further 90 per cent report that they type a candidate's name into an online search to find out more information beyond what is on the candidate's resume.

As a result 50 per cent of recruiters have eliminated a job candidate because of information they found publicly available on the internet. And it doesn't stop at recruitment.

Once you are employed your online presence may still be monitored with 8 per cent of companies having fired an employee for inappropriate online use.


Carry out a search on yourself

Open up any major search engine of your choice and type in your name - it's that simple.

Searching your own name is a good starting point to see what content is being crawled by the major search engines. Not only will you be able to view the content but you will be able to find the source.

If you find that the top results being shown connected with your name are non-professional then it's time to start working on setting up professional profiles such as LinkedIn.

LinkedIn results rank well within the major search engines so spending a little bit of time updating your profile can help enormously.

Always remember that a negative result can appear at any time so it's important you carry out a search on your own name regularly. Another good way to keep ahead is to set up a Google Alert so that you are notified if any new listings appear.

Social media and your job search

Social media has become, for many people, the preferred way to communicate. It's a fun way to stay in contact and share experiences with others - but precautions are needed.

With social media platforms, it's important to be aware of the privacy settings you have in place and that you understand these can differ from platform to platform. That being said, as a rule of thumb, try keeping your professional and private lives separate when it comes to social media.

Pay particular attention to images which others tag you in and if you find an image you've been tagged in which does not portray you in a positive light, un-tag yourself in the image.

As the web continues to expand so too will information that is available about you online. You can take steps to establish a positive online reputation by building your own brand online (self branding) and pushing out positive content.

Stay in control of your online reputation - be aware of and on top of images and content of you online. By doing this you are also maximising your potential personal and professional reach to prospective employers.

So, before you start thinking about your next big move, or you hit the apply button for that perfect job, perhaps you might want to stop and take a moment, potentially longer, and search your own name just to see what results are returned and how far your digital footprint extends. Very few of us who post content online really think about it coming back to haunt us. But it can - and it does.

Wayne Denner is a digital marketing expert, who lectures on CIM/CAM digital and mobile marketing at Queen's University Belfast for The Chartered Institute of Marketing. Mr Denner also works with UK government departments on strategies to help to keep young people safer online

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