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How To Manage Your Internet Identity and Online Reputation

Not managing your internet identity and online reputation can cost you a job. Make sure that doesn't happen by taking these steps.
How To Manage Your Internet Identity and Online Reputation

Your internet identity is one of the most important factors that decide how your contacts will perceive you.

In the modern digital era, a significant portion of our communication has shifted online.

Job interviews, business meetings, University classes, and other important events now happen in virtual meeting rooms.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, Microsoft Teams, or any other platform. What matters is that your online identity is the first point of contact with most of your correspondents.

Have you ever wondered what the first thing your new contacts do before they meet you?

It’s the same thing you do before you meet them.

You check their social media and put their name in a search engine.

Google, Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok – you go through it all, and so do your correspondents.

Needless to say, leaving a good first impression with your online identity is crucial as it can decide the course of new relationships and job interviews.

So let’s see how you can manage your internet identity and leave the best impression possible so that you won’t raise any red flags and potentially leave an amazing job opportunity on the table.

Managing Your Internet Identity 101

Managing your internet identity should be easy, right?

It’s not that it’s necessarily difficult to manage your online identity, but it does take some forethought.

A lot of people don’t think too hard about how they will be perceived by potential employers because of their online presence, and this is a big mistake.

The good news is, if you are diligent about managing your internet identity and online reputation, your chances of being successful in your job search are greater than that of someone who isn’t mindful of the red flags they may be raising.

Nothing Online is Temporary

Statistics suggest that employers nearly always vet candidates online before calling them in. One study states that a whopping 93% of surveyed hiring managers have searched a candidate’s social media profiles at some stage during the hiring process.

Sure, you can go through your history and straighten up your feed, but it’s much easier to not taint your internet identity in the first place. After all, you never know who screenshots what and when.

Additionally, setting your profiles to “private” is often not as air-tight as you think it is. Some things are still visible or searchable, even if you haven’t set your parameters to public access.

Avoid the following deadly sins of internet identity management:

  • Explicit or otherwise compromising photos
  • Provocative or inappropriate chats
  • Lying about your qualifications (always remember that serious employers actually run checks)
  • Unprofessional screen names, profile pics, or avatars
  • Photos or videos that show you’ve used addictive substances

Never Use Your Online Identity to Bad-Mouth

This one’s so important it deserves a section of its own. Many people use their social media to vent, criticize or express opinions on controversial topics. Restrain yourself from doing so.

If you feel like you’re going to just burst if you don’t state your controversial opinion, make sure not to be negative.

Avoid talking about distressing topics. Talk only about the positive stuff or, if you have to criticize something, use humor.

Joking about serious stuff has a way of keeping things positive even if you’re criticizing. It also shields you from the hate you’d otherwise face for provoking other people’s worldviews.

This is a cornerstone of successful internet identity management. It’s simple, but not easy to adhere to.

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Avoid posting negative judgments. Also, avoid controversies. If you have to touch on a controversial topic, praise what’s positive. Do not slur.

Here are some other things you should avoid in order to keep your online identity positive and professional:

  • Discriminative comments regarding race, gender, religion, politics, etc.
  • Bad-mouthing your previous employer or colleagues
  • Public disputes (if it’s unavoidable, be diplomatic and tread carefully)
  • Negativity and controversy
  • Stay calm and be respectful at all times

Should My Social Media Be Private?

You might be tempted to play it safe and mark your profiles as private. You are of course welcome to do so, but it may inadvertently cause your interviewers to think that:

  • You have something to hide
  • You aren’t technically savvy
  • You aren’t sociable or approachable
  • You don’t care about current issues

These aren’t necessarily fair assumptions and a good interviewer won’t allow their internal biases to keep you from getting an interview, but it is something to be aware of.

You don’t want to have a limited or private social media presence if you are interviewing for a job as a social media manager for instance, as your lack of activity may be interpreted as a lack of enthusiasm or care for your job.

Again, likely not an accurate assessment, but the average employer spends only 7 seconds looking over a candidate’s materials, so anything that may take you out of the running is something to be avoided.

Review Your Online Identity

It’s good to Google yourself now and then. Try to review the results from an employer’s perspective.

Go through your social media and check whether your digital identity is on point. Try to view yourself from a neutral perspective and get a sense of what you’re communicating to the viewer.

Check whether all your data is correct and up to date.

With professional social platforms like LinkedIn, your social presence can be curated to the professional world specifically, including companies or individuals whose attention you would like to grab.

Research your employer’s point of view. Ask yourself:

  • What industry are my employers in?
  • Which niche?
  • Who are their competitors?
  • What slang do they use and how can I speak their language?
  • What is important to them?
  • What are the problems that they’re trying to solve?
  • What are their desires, fears, and motivations?
  • Which skills are relevant for the positions in their companies?
  • How can I best convey the benefits of working with me?
  • Which specific results can I bring to the company?
  • What separates me from the rest of the candidates?
  • Why am I the best candidate to hire?
  • Why should they trust me?
  • Who do you help and how?
  • Which problems do you solve?

Curate your professional (and to the extent you would like to) your personal profiles to answering these questions and letting hiring managers and those working in your industry know how you are and what you’re about.

Be a Real Person While Online

Most employers nowadays are not just looking for a cog in the mechanism. They want to see that you’re a mature person with some character.

Find a way to stand out (in a professionally acceptable manner) and show that you’re authentic.

Many people respond to honesty and authenticity, especially when they personally relate to the struggle.

Admittedly it’s walking a fine line, but don’t just talk about business.

Showcase your interests, struggles, and triumphs. Try speaking about:

  • What motivates you
  • What you enjoy doing
  • How you like to spend your time
  • What you like talking about
  • What your work-life values are
  • What change you want to help bring about
  • How you got where you are now
  • What you want to accomplish in the future

Use the Power of Storytelling

Stories are a way in which we organize our experiences and give meaning to them. We think in narratives and we’re psychologically inclined to get deeply immersed in a good story.

When it comes to managing your digital identity, you’re actually managing your brand.

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So why not utilize storytelling to grab the attention of a hiring manager?

Organize your bio as a narrative. Think about what your story really is.

Every narrative touches on some of the oldest questions that homo sapiens have ever known: who are we, where did we come from, where are we going, where would we want to go, how do we get there and what happens when we get derailed?

These are the questions that you’ll need to answer for yourself and give your story the captivating allure that should impress your employers.

Your Online Reputation is Up to You

It’s up to you to decide how you want your internet identity to be perceived. Keep in mind that employers will be looking at your content to determine whether or not you seem like a professional person they would like to work with.

Be genuine, positive, and authentic in your online life and you will have nothing to fear.

Further Reading:
How to Build a Portfolio
How to Write a Damn Good LinkedIn Profile
The Best 25 Pieces of Career Advice You’ll Ever Receive

Pamela Skillings
Pamela is the co-founder of BigInterview and an expert interview coach on a mission to help job seekers get their dream jobs. As an HR authority, she also provides consulting services to companies wishing to streamline their hiring process.

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