A negative online reputation impacts job searches. Recently, I met a law school graduate who was looking to branch out in a new career after working for a prestigious law firm, but could not land an interview because of a negative online reputation.
Although she is smart, dedicated, and talented, when a recruiter or employer searched for her name online, several negative links showed up on the first page on Google.
As a result, in spite of her excellent background, job history, education and personal presentation, she had a difficult time getting an interview, and for the few she got, very few called her back for a second interview — in fact, many simply did not call again. A major reason is because four or five very damaging negative posts come up when searching for her name.
Having a good or perfect online reputation is crucial today for job candidates, recent college graduates or young professionals. Any negative information, whether it be a bad blog post or poor online review can cause employers to simply stop calling and move on to the next candidate.
There are ways to fix your online reputation if you are switching careers or looking for a new job. Here are a few helpful tips.
Start Now When The Problem Occurs
Don’t wait: if a damaging link shows up online it probably won’t go away anytime soon and could get worse. Know your online status and look for any problems frequently. If a problem comes up, take charge immediately. Strategize and plan how to best move forward, and think about what needs to be done right now and next month. For example, if you plan on getting a job but you have a semester to finish graduate school, put off interviews until later and try to remove or push down the bad post during the next two months.
Be Honest During Interviews
If you have an interview, best honest and tell your potential employer the problem, since they’ll find out soon enough. Going into details is probably not necessary but you should say that a negative search item is showing up if you Google me — and let’s face it, that’s the first thing they will do. You can mention the problem briefly, such as, “an ex-boyfriend of mine wrote negative things about me online unfortunately after a college breakup,” or, “a disgruntled and difficult client posted something bad about me on ComplaintsBoard after he wasn’t satisfied with my suggestions,” or, “it looks like a competitor engaged in an online smear campaign against me last year.”
How to Fix the Problem: Remove it
Once something is online, it’s incredibly hard and nearly impossible to remove it, but try anyway as the first step. Since most sites have a posting policy section, the best place to start is to see if the post or comment violated the terms. Yahoo Answers, for example, has a set of community guidelines restricting what members can post and other sites have similar rules. However, some sites will ignore requests, such as Ripoff Report.com.
Take Charge by Publishing Great Things About You
The best approach to fix your online reputation is to write great things about yourself. Inundating the web with good content will eventually push down the negative item off the first page.
What to write? How long will it take? Well, that depends. A good first step to see what other good things have already been written about you and make sure it’s online. If it’s not, publish it immediately. Next, think about recent newsworthy events, conferences, awards, accomplishments or original ideas and publish them on blogs or other sites. Engaging in social media is crucial to spread the word about the new content.
How long will it take? It depends on how bad the negative item is, how popular it is or how many hits it gets, your existing online presence and the effort you put into fixing your online reputation. Generally, it could easily take MONTHS. If necessary, consider working with a professional to speed the process.
Frequently add New Good Information
Adding one post won’t work — you need a constant attack. Since this could take months, prepare to spend hours each week. An online reputation management professional might spend 30 to 100 hours repairing fixing a problem over several months, so you might take twice as long, so keep at it.
It is possible to repair or fix your online reputation when switching careers to help you get an interview or call back. Take a breath, be honest, dive in and try your best. It probably won’t go away anytime soon but it can be fixed.