Your Digital Footprint Could Determine Your Next Job [Here’s How to Improve it]

by Pranav Ramesh
March 14, 2019
How Personal Branding Helps

5 Personal Brand Hacks to Optimize Your Cyber Reputation

A brand isn’t a short-term fix or a fad, but a way to strategically build a (person’s/businesses/school’s) assets in a transparent digital world.” – Trish Rubin, Author of BrandED

About a year ago I Googled myself out of curiosity. No surprise… the results looked nearly the same as they had two years prior. The first result was my LinkedIn page. Next, an old IMDb entry for a film I never made. Then, page after page of ads to “see this person’s private, hidden, background check information for only $1”.

Tucked in-between those *cough* 100% legitimate *cough* offers were snippets of people who definitely weren’t me. Michael Von Bardeleben is, apparently, a South Australian model and actor. H.J. von Bardeleben likes to study hydrogen in semiconductors and silicon. While none of this necessarily makes me look bad it’s wasted advertising space for myself and my personal brand.

Most of us know how important it is to clean our digital footprint.

Just ask the monthly Cx0 getting fired for their decade-old tweet.

However, not enough of us make the effort to market our digital reputation.

Think about how much time and effort you put into your resume and cover letter. Now compare that to the energy you put into your digital brand a.k.a. what people see when they search for you online. Which did you spend more time editing, fixing, tweaking and perfecting? Now which do you think savvy employers spend more time looking at or place more value on… the paper you typed about yourself or what the cyber world says about you?

Exactly.

Your digital reputation and personal brand are critically important today and are only growing more valuable. The sooner you take control over what search engines say (or don’t say) about you the quicker and easier it’ll be.

For that reason I give you five personal branding hacks, that you can do today, to improve your digital footprint and impress employers.

1. Plan your personal, digital brand strategy

It’s much quicker, easier and cheaper to create a digital footprint from scratch than it is to rebuild one. Strategize what you want your digital brand to say about you before attempting to create it. Here’s a little exercise to get you in a professional branding mindset;

    • Put yourself in the shoes of a hiring manager – hiring for a job you want 
    • Find a stranger on LinkedIn who would likely apply for that job 
    • Google that stranger 
    • What did you notice about the results? What is that person likely an expert in? What do their photos say about them? Is there a lot, or very little, information about them? 
    • Keep that employer mindset 
    • Search for yourself (be sure to include name variations) 
    • Now, ask yourself honestly: If you knew nothing about yourself aside from your resume… What would these search results say you’re all about?

2. Change what doesn’t fit your brand

Now that you know what Google thinks about you it’s time to start affecting it.

It generally takes longer for old information to be changed or removed than for new data to be indexed or added. This is why we start pruning (a.k.a. removing) information first.

Don’t worry too much about what’s on page two or further of the search results (unless it’s really bad… which is a whole different article).

The goal should be to control, at least, the entire first page of results.

  • Start at the top and work down, one by one, digging into each search result
  • Look for each pages Privacy Policy or Contact links near the bottom of the page
  • Look around here for instructions about how to change or remove information
  • If there are none then email them or make a support ticket.
  • Request to remove any information that’s outdated or doesn’t fit your intended brand

Some will comply and others won’t. Some respond right away while others wait weeks or months. Don’t get caught up in any one single site or search result. The goal here is to affect the ‘low-hanging fruit’. We’ll be banishing the rest to the depths of the search results soon enough.

3. Own your online presence

Owning a domain that puts your personal name in URL format can do wonders for your branding and online persona. Domain names that say exactly what someone is searching for tend to rank near the top. 

Why wouldn’t they? Can you imagine searching for “Nike,” and nike.com not being one of the first results? Your name should be no different. If someone searches Google for you, and yourname.com is, or leads to, an actual website about you, it’s going to rank highly. 

If you have a fairly unique full name, you’re in luck. Less common names tend to cost about $9-$14 per year to own. While .com is still the most sought after top-level domain (TLD), there are many other options, including .info, .org, or .site. Searching with a modern domain name registrar will give you an idea of what variations are available, and might even suggest something that you like. 

Once you own your domain, there are a variety of things you can do with it to optimize your digital footprint. You could create a personal website or portfolio on a free web host, then redirect your domain name to it. Or, if you don’t have a personal website, you can redirect the domain name to your LinkedIn profile, your GitHub page, your Medium blog, etc. 

Don’t forget about social media! If your name, or a variation of it, is available as a username on certain social media sites, go ahead and make a profile – even if you never intend to use the site, you can set up all of these ‘satellite profiles’ so that people searching for you on social wind up funneled through to your personal website (or profile, etc.). 

Don’t worry about trying to buy every variation. Google’s algorithm is smart and will likely make those connections for searchers. When in doubt, buy the name people are most likely to search. 

Related: The 4 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid When Preparing for an Interview

 

4. Pay extra attention to images

Your first impression is no longer made in the office with eye contact and a handshake.

It’s now made by the first five pictures in your Google image search results. These photos show near the top of the search results page and are one of the first times a person sees you.

Don’t worry, hiring managers and recruiters don’t expect to see five variations of your professional headshot. One on your LinkedIn profile should be enough. Here they’re expecting to see more casual, honest and sincere photos of you. Even those photos, though, should fit the personal brand and executive presence you want to become known for.

Google’s not a person (legally… yet) so you can’t just tell it, “Hey, this is me. When people look for me… show them this!” There are ways to suggest it though.

The best way is to intentionally edit the metadata of any photo you post.

Here are a few best practices;

  • Filename: Use accurate and descriptive titles. Keep the most important aspects of the description as early as possible in the title. Use a dash (-) as a space, as some search engines don’t recognize underscores (_).
  • Caption and ALT tags: Anywhere you can edit the metadata of the photo is an opportunity. Some platforms will only allow slight adjustments while others give you complete control. Use every tool at your disposal to describe the photo accurately.
  • EXIF Data:Many social media sites now strip away photos’ EXIF data (the data about the shot: time, location, camera settings, etc.). Despite this, it’s a great best practice to programmatically edit that information on every picture. This is especially important if it’s being posted to a personal website (like your WordPress or Wix portfolio), rather than a social media platform. Most modern cellphones and imaging software will have an option to help you do this.

5. Wherever you go, there you are

No matter what type of web presence you go for, or what social media sites you decide to fold into it, show up everywhere as your 100% authentic self.  

Does this mean copy-paste your content from your website to your Twitter account, over to your LinkedIn profile, over to Medium, over to…? No. Repurposing content isn’t recommended, and it won’t showcase anything that searchers haven’t already seen about you.  

So mix things up a bit! Here’s how:  

Use your personal website (if you make one) to host a brief bio, links to where else you and your work can be found, and a blog, if you feel like you want one. From there, you could make your Twitter all of your off-the-cuff observations, your GitHub where your most interesting projects live, and your Instagram page dedicated to photos of your rock-climbing hobby (or your pets). Just make sure that all of these places feel like true, positive reflections of your work and life, and you’ll be in great shape! 

Personal brand, digital footprint, executive presence… however you choose to describe it, there’s no debating the importance. Your digital reputation grows more and more important everyday, and it is much easier to create a digital presence than to try to change one. There’s no time like the present to start building! 

Got your personal brand all worked out already? Let’s help you find someplace exciting to take it; review our current job listings here, or contact us directly via email: hello@ptechpartners.com.


About the Company:

Peterson Technology Partners (PTP) has partnered with some of the biggest Fortune brands to offer excellence of service and best-in-class team building for the last 25 years. 

PTP’s diverse and global team of recruiting, consulting, and project development experts specialize in a variety of IT competencies which include:  

  • Cybersecurity  
  • DevOps  
  • Cloud Computing
  • Data Science
  • AI/ML
  • Salesforce Optimization
  • VR/AR 

Peterson Technology Partners is an equal opportunities employer. As an industry leader in IT consulting and recruitment, specializing in diversity hiring, we aim to help our clients build equitable workplaces.

26+ Years in IT Placements & Staffing Solutions

Address

1030 W Higgins Rd, Suite 230
Park Ridge, IL 60068

Phone

312-778-5006

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