ou've polished your resume, you've been practicing for your next phone interview and you've even scouted out all of the opportunities to join the company of your dreams. You're 99% ready to go. But first, make sure your online presence is completely application-ready and on point—the way you are in real life.
Ready to apply? Follow these tips to ensure your resume lands as smoothly as possible.
1. Update Your Email and Website Avatars With a Decent Headshot
If you set up your email or personal website a long time ago, you may have uploaded an avatar image or profile picture that doesn't reflect your professional persona. Put on an outfit you’d wear to a job interview, take a photo and then upload a new avatar image to your email account and your website’s content management system (for instance, WordPress, Squarespace or Tumblr). It's an easy way to put your best foot—er, face—forward.
2. Search Your Own Name in an Incognito Window
Googled yourself lately? If so, don’t be embarrassed—probably everyone with an internet connection has done so at least once. But if you use your default search engine to search for yourself, the results you see will be skewed based on your own individual browsing history, and not necessarily reveal what a recruiter might find. That’s why you need to use an incognito (or “private”) window on your browser to mask the fact that the query is coming from you. Doing so allows you to see what your search results look like from a stranger’s perspective.
Let's say your name is Robert Wood Johnson. In that case, you might try searching for:
- Robert Wood Johnson
- “Robert Wood Johnson” (the quotation marks indicate to Google, as well as most other search engines, that you're looking for an exact match on those three words)
- Plausible misspellings of your name, such as "Robert Wood Jonson"
- Your email address (both with and without quotation marks)
Make sure to search in the “images” tab, too. You never know when old college photos will come back to haunt you. By the same token, if you spot any old social media profiles or web handles you’d like to dispose of, now's the time to do it. To remove content that isn't associated with social media profiles you've created, you'll likely need to work with the person who owns the site where the content appears. Check out Google's guidelines on removing content to learn more.
3. Get Ahead of the Google Game
Prospective employers are going to search for you online, so you should also take a moment to observe basic social media privacy etiquette. Lock down your Facebook settings to “friends only,” clean up your Twitter, update your LinkedIn and so on.
If you’ve been a prolific social media user over the past decade, you may find the task of cleaning up your Twitter a little daunting. Fortunately, there are free apps like TweetDelete, which can erase as many as 3,200 of your most recent tweets, plus browser extensions to help you. Paid apps and extensions usually cost under $10 and can go even further back into your archive.
A more dramatic solution would be to go nuclear on your account and delete it altogether. It's ultimately up to you to determine what would be most effective based on your posting history.
4. Spruce Up Sites You Want Employers to See
If you want to improve your search engine ranking and general visibility, consider making yourself a webpage. It doesn't have to be anything fancy—a single page with your headshot, a short bio and your work experience will do. And, if you’re applying for a creative position, you might want to make yourself a dynamic online portfolio in which you show off your best work—along with your broad set of digital and creative skills.
If you haven’t got the time or skills to make a website, make sure your LinkedIn is as complete and descriptive as possible.
When it comes down to it, controlling what a search engine has to say about you by taking ownership of your name online is a smart move whether you’re on the job hunt or not.