March 12, 2021


By Alex Harrington, Executive Director

Last month I presented on “Finding & Telling Your Story in Today’s Job Market” and talked about the importance of managing your brand and reputation online – a conscious and intentional effort to create and influence recruiters’ and hiring managers’ perception of you and your talents, especially how they differentiate you from the competition.

Today, I came across a report that reinforced my proposition on the importance of managing your online professional and personal brand.

The report (coauthored by Steve McDonald, Amanda K Damarin, Hannah McQueen, & Scott T Grether) describes how the “use of the internet to obtain information is an increasingly common part of hiring processes.” Known as ‘cybervetting,’ more and more HR professionals are routinely checking job candidates' online presence and social media posts “in order to minimize hiring risks and maximize organizational fit.”

In fact, a study published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in 2016 claimed that more than 43% of organizations indicated that they used social media or online search engines such as Google to screen and assess job candidates’ suitability for positions. And over “one-third of organizations disqualified a job candidate” based on their postings on public social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.

However, the late Richard N. Bolles, author of “What Color Is Your Parachute” (2020) claimed that “more than 40% of the time an employer will offer someone a job because they liked what Google turned up about them.”

Regardless of your current career standing – either you're looking for work, currently a student, gainfully employed, or in some other type of career transition – you must think and act like a business leader. With so many HR professionals, recruiters, and hiring managers (like myself) using social media and other online platforms to determine a job candidate’s suitability for employment, now more than ever you need to manage your online brand and reputation.

“How” you may ask?

First, protect your online brand and reputation by making sure you have a coherent narrative that tells a story of how your past experiences fit into your present. We all have backgrounds. And our backgrounds tend to showcase how our past experiences define and transform us into who we are today.

I can’t but help think of a tree and its rings that make up its girth. About each year a tree adds to its girth a new growth called a tree ring. As you look at a tree’s outer bark, there are many years beneath it in its rings. And they are all tied into the tree’s central core – the pith. Just like the tree, you have rings (personal and professional experiences) that make up your outer bark (your current state in your personal and professional life). And as each tree’s rings tell a story such as drought, fire, insects, thinning, etc., and how each one influences the outer bark, so do your past experiences tell a story that defines your brand and reputation.

Now, your job is to define and tell how your current situation (the outer bark) was influenced by your past experiences (the rings). This will not only put you in charge of your story, it will be difficult for others to squeeze between your rings to give a different account.  

Second, audit your reputation. Like corporations, public institutions, not-for-profit, and other organizations, you have your own professional and personal brand, both of which may be helping or hindering your job search. So, it is up to you to audit your online reputation. Begin with the following questions:

  • How are you represented on social media platforms, such as LinkedIn or Facebook? 
  • Are you using a professional photo on your LinkedIn profile? If not, then consider hiring a photographer to take some professional photos. 
  • Do your online biographies convey a consistent brand about you?
  • What type of photos or descriptions come up about you when you type your name into Google?
  • Have you published online articles, blogs, or other content? Do they enhance your brand?
  • Are there any photos published online without your permission, such as a photo taken at a party and then posted on Twitter?

Last, make sure your LinkedIn profile is 100% completed. According to Regina Borsellino (The 31 Best LinkedIn Profile Tips for Job Seekers), “LinkedIn’s algorithm rewards users with complete profiles.” And your name will show up in more search results if your profile is complete. Moreover, you should know that recruiters and hiring managers are reviewing your profile, whether you apply for their jobs or not. But if you decide not to bother updating your LinkedIn profile, then I strongly recommend that you delete it entirely than lose brand credibility. 

To learn more about maintaining your online professional and personal brand, check out the following articles:

  1. How To Audit Your Personal Brand
  2. The 31 Best LinkedIn Profile Tips for Job Seekers
  3. 16 Tips for Building an Online Personal Brand for Growing Your Career


About the Author

Alex Harrington is currently a Federal civil servant and a Certified Career Services Provider and Global Career Development Facilitator. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps and is a Persian Gulf War veteran.

Alex Harrington
Chair & Executive Director
All Rights Reserved © 2022 - FEDERAL CAREER CONNECTION, INC. Website by Versify.