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How to make the best impression when you can’t interview in person

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by Jennifer Bridges  @JenBridgesRD

Job hunting is a difficult enough chore in the best of times. However, when you add in the new reality of social distancing and state-wide shutdowns due to the Coronavirus, the process becomes exponentially more challenging. One of the biggest downsides is not being able to meet hiring managers in person. How can you make a human connection with potential employers when all they can see is the “virtual” you? 

Here are some ways to polish your online presence and impress potential employers.

Search for your name

The first step in presenting yourself in the best light online is to find out what items appear when someone searches for your name. These items, otherwise known as your online reputation, are the face you present to the world. A good way to examine your online reputation is to search for different versions of your name. 

Before you start, be sure to log out of Google, clear your cache, and use a browser you don’t normally use. This reduces the chance of your browsing history influencing your results. Then, search for the following:

firstname + lastname

firstname + middle initial + lastname

firstname + lastname + occupation

firstname + lastname + city

Make sure to also look for videos and images.

Then, write down any misleading or outdated results you find that might make you look bad in the eyes of an employer. 

The following content is especially damaging:

  • Proof that you exaggerated your qualifications for the job
  • Complaints about a previous coworker or company 
  • Inflammatory statements about race, gender, or religion
  • Confidential information you’ve shared about a former employer
  • References to illegal drug use
  • Explicit images or comments

Finally, examine each item you find to see who posted it because your options for removing content will vary depending on who owns it.

Remove negative content

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You have different options for removing negative content, depending on who posted it. 

For example, if you posted the content, then you can delete it or edit it. However, if someone else posted the content, then you need to ask the author, the website owner, or Google to remove it. 

If this doesn’t work, you need to suppress the negative item by creating your own positive content that is optimized for your name. This new content will push down the bad results off of page one of your search results, where few people ever look.

For specific instructions on how to remove or suppress negative content, see “How to remove an article from the Internet.”

Audit your social media accounts

Two-thirds of employers look at social media profiles when screening candidates, and more than half have decided against hiring an individual because of what they’ve found. As such, it’s vital that you thoroughly review everything you’ve shared on social media to ensure it’s not giving you a virtual black eye.

The best way to go about this is to examine all your previous posts and remove or edit anything that paints you in a bad light or that others might misinterpret. If you aren’t sure whether to delete something or just reword it, go ahead and delete it. It’s better to be on the safe side.

Take control of your career with our free Reputation Report Card Start Your Scan

At the same time, don’t get overzealous and delete your entire social media history. Employers want to find something when they look for you online. Being invisible will make it seem like you’re hiding something. In fact, 47% of employers are less likely to interview someone they can’t find online.

Separate your personal and professional lives online

You want to impress potential employers by showcasing your skills and personality on your social media accounts. What you don’t want is for hiring managers to have to wade through dozens of your kid’s birthday party pictures and funny memes you’ve shared with your friends before they see the “professional” you.

One way to keep sharing with your friends and family while curating a professional image is to establish separate personal and professional profiles. Once you do this, you can ask your close friends to only post to your personal accounts. This way, only those closest to you can see your personal posts. It’s also a good idea to carefully separate the two friend lists to ensure there is no overlap.

Ask people to avoid tagging you in photos

Allowing other people to tag you in their photos means giving up a certain amount of control of your online image, resulting in pictures you might not even know about spreading across the Internet with your name on them. If these pictures are in any way inappropriate or offensive, they can significantly damage your online reputation. 

Are online reputation issues hurting your job prospects? Find out with our free Reputation Report Card. Start Your Scan

To ensure you are in control of any pictures attached to your name, you need to reach out to your friends and ask them to stop tagging you. Then, go change the settings on each social media platform to limit tagging or notify you of any new photos you’re tagged in so you can review them before they show up in your timeline.

Improve your LinkedIn profile

Your LinkedIn profile usually ranks near the top of your search results. Therefore, you need to make sure it presents you in the best light. 

To make your profile more impressive, you can:

  • Use keywords—Recruiters can more easily find you if your profile contains the right keywords
  • Be specific—Don’t skimp on the details about what you did at your previous jobs.
  • Keep your About section short—Keep it to one or two paragraphs.
  • Get recommendations—These items are vital social proof of your qualifications.
  • Use a professional photo—Wear work attire, use a simple background, and smile.

For more information on creating a powerful LinkedIn profile, see “Make your LinkedIn profile an online reputation management tool.”

As someone who turns entrepreneurs into media celebrities, I teach that LinkedIn is also excellent for attracting amazing opportunities to be seen as the go-to authority for your industry.”—Josh Elledge, founder of upendPR.com

Make sure your resume matches your LinkedIn and search results

You need to ensure that the skills and achievements you’ve listed on your resume are reflected in your LinkedIn profile and search results. You want potential employers to easily be able to verify your qualifications online. 

For example, if your resume states that you’ve designed hundreds of logos, then you’ll need to prove it by setting up a website where people can view your work. Not having an online portfolio to back up your claims of being a graphic designer will make you look untrustworthy.

Engage with industry experts

To establish your authority in your niche, you need to make yourself visible and demonstrate your expertise. A good way to do this is to connect with other experts in your industry.

Take control of your career with our free Reputation Report Card Start Your Scan

Join industry groups on social media. Follow individual experts and engage them in conversation. For example, if there has been a recent change in your field, you can discuss the best ways to respond.

Over time, linking your name with well-known industry figures will transfer some of their authority to you. 

There are many thought leaders I follow on LinkedIn that are always posting interesting content about either marketing tips, work from home styles, and more. By commenting and/or liking their posts, I’ve been able to raise my visibility among key hiring managers.”—Allison Frieden, digital marketing and PR professional

Create a personal brand

A person wearing a suit and tie  Description automatically generated

When it comes to landing an interview, getting noticed is half the battle. One way to ensure that you stand out from your competition and earn the trust of employers is to create a strong personal brand that defines what you stand for, what you have to offer, and what makes you special. 

To create your personal brand, ask yourself these questions:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What is something you excel at?
  • What do others praise you for?
  • What values do you base your major life decisions on?
  • What things do people ask you to help with?
  • What words would most people use to describe you?
  • What is unique about your methods or the results you achieve?

Then, take what you’ve learned and write a two-sentence personal statement that conveys the essence of your brand. Incorporate this statement across all your social channels, your resume, and your personal website. 

You should also ensure that you are easy to identify regardless of which platform people find you on. An easy way to do this is to use the same name, photo, and color scheme everywhere online.

Check out companies online too

Employers are more likely to hire you if you sound knowledgeable during your interview. Therefore, you need to research potential employers just like they are researching you.

At a minimum, you should find out what the company does, who its major clients are, and the names of some of the executives. It’s also good to know who the hiring manager is for the position you want.

Are online reputation issues hurting your job prospects? Find out with our free Reputation Report Card. Start Your Scan

Here are some quick ways to get information:

  • Google the company’s name and see what comes up. 
  • Read news and press releases on the company’s website.
  • Follow the company on social media.
  • Read industry journals.

Watch what you share

It’s always easier to maintain a good online reputation than it is to repair a damaged one. As such, you should avoid posting anything you might regret later on.

It’s important to “think twice, post once” because once you share something, it’s out of your control. Even if you immediately delete the offending content, it can still exist online and be visible to potential employers if someone managed to take a screenshot of it before you removed it.

Ask yourself the following before you click “post:”

  • Is this content appropriate to share in a work setting?
  • Would I feel comfortable sharing this content with my grandmother?
  • Does this content spread negativity?
  • Have I fact-checked this information?

If the answer to any of these is “yes,” then you shouldn’t share the content online.

Monitor the web for mentions of your name

Take control of your career with our free Reputation Report Card Start Your Scan

The Internet never stops changing, so you can never really be “done” with managing your online reputation, especially if you are looking for a job. To ensure you can respond quickly and effectively to new threats as they emerge, you need to constantly watch for new mentions of your name online.

Some good tools that can help you automate this process are:

The basic process for all these tools is the same: You just enter your email address and type your name (or another search term) into the search field. Then, whenever the tool finds a new instance of your name, it sends you an email notification.

Practice video conferencing

Once you’ve improved how you look online to potential employers, it’s time to practice for that video interview. To make sure everything goes smoothly, follow these tips:

  1. Do a trial run—Practice your virtual interview with a friend to make sure the technology works. This way, you can get feedback on your overall presentation as well as prevent any technological mishaps during the real interview.
  1. Ensure your background is free from distractions—Clean up any clutter and make sure there’s a lock on your door.
  1. Look professional—Just because you aren’t there in person doesn’t mean you should present yourself any less formally.

In response to COVID-19, many companies such as Twitter, Google, Amazon, Target, Ford and Fiat Chrysler, have switched over to video interviews for job candidates.” Kathy Gardner, senior director of public relations for FlexJobs

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When you can’t make your first impression in person, it’s even more important to ensure that your online reputation looks its best. If you need any additional information about managing your particular reputation issue, don’t hesitate to give us a call for a free consultation.