A blog about digital & online

Should you be concerned that ORM affects employment?

Online reputation management is vital in the professional world. Businesses, large and small, have come to recognise its importance, but private individuals are still running rampant online, forgetting that everything they say, do and upload is recorded and saved for everyone to see. The effects of this willy-nilly behaviour can be far reaching, especially with regards to employment prospects.

A 2010 study conducted by Microsoft revealed that 79% of employers and recruiters do a Google check on job applicants. What’s more, 70% of employers have rejected applications based on the information found. Yet, only 7% of job seekers (US job seekers) believe that their online behaviour will affect their employment prospects.

It’s not just dodgy photos, ill-judged comments and wanton rantings that can jeopardise jobs; scatty online presence is just as disadvantageous.

This means that you’ll be judged based on the fact that you don’t have an online presence. These days, a lack of online activity is indicative of backward thinking, a stubborn disregard for progress and an unwillingness to embrace change.

It’s the old rock/hard place scenario.

Tom Winston talks about the importance of your Google Top 10: the top 10 results for a Google search on your name, all variations on your name, nicknames and social network usernames.

There are several ways in which these searches can play out:

  • You can dominate all 10 spots with social network profiles, blog posts and generally positive comments. In this case, good for you. You’re doing well and need to keep up the good work. But don’t get complacent, check the top 20 and 30 results and don’t let someone playing silly buggers upset the balance with a tagged photo of you with your head down the toilet. You might only have food poisoning, but unless it suitably titled, people looking at the photo will assume something else.
  • You can dominate all 10 spots with embarrassing photos, criticisms of your boss, criticisms of you by other people and generally things that you would rather be swept under the carpet. In this case, you need to take urgent action. You need to untag yourself from dangerous photos, you need to delete your snarky comments, you need to make peace with the people who don’t like you (or at least try to) and you need to try altering the balance with good news.
    Upload a lot of positive pictures of yourself – tag and title them. Start making more positive status updates and stop posting links to sites that are definitely NSFW.
  • You can dominate all 10 spots with some good and some negative results. In this case, try doing more of the good and less of the bad.
  • You can share the top 10 with other names that are similar to yours, be they companies or people. In this case, you need to try and claim your identity. Look into owning vanity URLs on all your social media profiles. Your name should stand as your username instead of random words and numbers. Try and be more active. If possible, start a blog. There is nothing like a blog for creating an online presence.
  • You can not appear in the top 10 at all and possibly not even the top 20 or 30. In this case, you need to start being more active. Take all the suggestions in the points above and get cracking.

Now, there are undoubtedly many, many people out there who think that this is contrary to what social media sites are all about. Suddenly all online activity becomes something of a farce as you have to try and create a positive image of yourself instead of being yourself. What do teenagers care about censoring their communications with friends because what they have to say could affect their employment chances in the future?

Who’s to say that just because you party hard on weekends and like to share the good times with all your friends online that you aren’t a conscientious and dedicated worker?

Should we really treat our Facebook and Twitter accounts as perpetual job interviews?


Of course not.

But it’s a good idea to remember that the things you share online are, inevitably, available for everyone to see. Make good use of the privacy settings on your accounts. And never forget that if you wouldn’t want your mom to see it, don’t put it online.

(Image by Guillaume Paumier / Wikimedia Commons, CC-by-3.0))

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