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Why It's Vital That You Google Yourself Before You Apply for a Job

Employers will check you out online. Make sure you’ll like what they see.

By Susan P. Joyce | July 30, 2013

A version of this article appeared previously on Workcoachcafe.com.
 
As the editor of the Workcoachcafe.com and Job-hunt.org sites, I’ve heard many job seekers say that submitting resumés in today’s job market is mostly a bang-your-head-against-a-wall, frustrating waste of time.

They want their resumés to get them into interviews, but it often doesn’t happen. 

What Nearly 80 Percent of Employers Do

I think this could be why: Nearly 80 percent of employers Google prospective job seekers to review their reputations, according to the 2010 study financed by Microsoft, “Online Reputation in a Connected World.”

(MORE: How to Use LinkedIn to Promote Your Personal Brand)

I actually think the percentage has surpassed 80 percent in the nearly three years since that report was released, based on countless conversations I’ve had with recruiters and employers. If it hasn’t hit 100 percent yet, it will very soon.

If employers doing a Google search on you don’t find something that reflects your resumé – a LinkedIn profile would be an excellent search result – you probably won’t be invited in for an interview.

Interviewing job candidates is very expensive for employers, second only to the cost of hiring the wrong candidate. Consequently, employers use Google searches to avoid making costly errors. 

4 Steps to an Interview

The resumé-submission-to-interview-invitation process typically runs through these four steps:

Step 1: Resumés are received by an employer or a recruiter then screened into two groups, “possible” and “no.” 

Step 2: The “possibles” are then Googled and then screened into three groups – “more likely,”  “less likely” and “no” – based on what’s discovered or not discovered.

Step 3:  The “more likely” candidates are compared. Phone interviews may be conducted.

Step 4: Invitations to interview are extended and the true dance begins.

When nothing, or nothing good, is found about you through the Google search, you generally end up in the “less likely” or “no” pile.

(MORE: 10 Ways the Job Search Has Changed)

So it’s critically important that you take the following three measures to influence what a Google search turns up. This will not only help you land job interviews, it’ll increase your market value and the size of your online networks.

Google yourself. When you do this, look at the first three or four pages to see what an employer will discover.
 
If your name doesn’t show up, most employers will assume this means you don’t know how the world works today. You could then be considered a poor prospect.

A search revealing something inappropriate associated with your name could be a potential problem and land you in an employer’s reject pile. You could even be blacklisted because someone else has your name and has done something wrong – been arrested for drunken driving or accused of being a tax cheat, posted inappropriate photos online, contributed nasty comments on blogs ... You get the idea.

In this case, you need to practice “defensive Googling”  for the rest of your job search (and career) to prevent such results from showing up in the first few pages of a Google search of your name.

Adopting defensive practices could push any bad stuff connected with your name to the third or fourth page of search results.

One of the things that Google values is “freshness,” so keep adding new information to make positive things about you show up in a search of your name.

(MORE: Create a Winning Midlife Resumé to Get Hired)

Google anyone well-known and respected in your field. This will let you see what appears on the first page of their search results.

Putting aside things like a feature in The New York Times, a glowing 60 Minutes segment or a similar high-profile media mention, I bet you could also get visibility in most, if not all, of the types of Google results you see.

If you Google me, for example, you'll find among other things:

  • My LinkedIn profile
  • My Google+ profile
  • My Twitter bio
  • And my VisualCV

Profiles and bios like these are available to anyone at no cost. And I know that all of my profiles represent the image I want to convey because I wrote them.

Start working on ways to improve your online reputation. I wrote a Workcoachcafe.com post explaining the various ways to spruce up your Web persona – from creating a sharp LinkedIn profile to writing a blog that’ll increase your visibility.

It takes time to begin creating a positive online presence. Once you do so, however, you’ll need to spend only an hour or two a week to keep your online reputation clean. 

When you are in job-search mode, you’ll probably want to spend more time building your online reputation because it’s so important to your job search.

These days, everyone has a public image – or should. So the sooner you start managing yours, the better off you'll be.

Think of this exercise as "personal branding." The greater your positive online visibility, the better your reputation and the higher the likelihood that a hiring manager will place your resumé in the "more likely" group the next time you apply for a job.

Isn't that, after all, your goal?

Susan P. Joyce is editor and chief writer at Job-hunt.org and chief blogger at Workcoachcafe.com, websites devoted to helping job seekers find employment. She is also a visiting scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

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