Regulating your digital footprint

It’s not news that people go to the Internet first for information on just about anything these days. But it may be news to some that this includes recruiters, hiring managers, and just about anyone else who is trying to locate talent for their businesses and organizations.About 90 percent of all recruiters and 50 percent of all employers perform Web searches before making a hiring decision. If you are trying to find a new job, transition a career or seek new business opportunities, you need to have a presence online. Can you imagine anyone in 2011 making a claim of “professional greatest” and not being found online? It’s unimaginable.Your digital footprint refers to all of the information there is about you out there. It can come from many places, including social networking media, profile and biography pages you may have established on your own or that exist on employer and association sites, blogs, forum and message board postings, chats, and even political or religious contributions that you have made.Even if you are committed to not being online, it’s hard not finding yourself there somehow.If you are serious about regulating your digital footprint — and you should be — there are five things to strive for: • Your presence should be strong and in multiple locations • A positive professional image should be displayed • A consistent and keyword-rich value proposition should be present across all platforms • A clear and memorable career brand should exist • There should be no digital dirt or negative unprofessional content about you found in searches • Above all, never assume that anything you write or post online is anonymous.Three fundamental stepsBegin regulating your online presence by seeing what it looks like now. Google yourself in quotation marks and find every reference to you on the first three search ranking pages. Assess what is being shown about you. Is it positive or not? It is highly probable that you are sharing your name with others. Note how often this is happening. You may even find that information that is old and once confined to paper has now been converted to digital format and is available online.Now that you have a baseline, get started managing. There are three fundamental steps to establishing a digital footprint that you control: • Have a well-written resume with a distinct value proposition that serves as your image anchor • Build a basic online identity by completing profiles on Google Profiles and ZoomInfo • Set up a business networking presence by having active accounts with LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.All of these websites are SEO (search engine optimization) rich, meaning that they will rank high during Web searches.There are additional sites with which to consider opening accounts, such as MyWebCareer,, Vizibility, Ecademy and BrazenCareerist. Taken together, these will give you a lot of power to control your cyber appearance.Some management techniques to know when using these sites include: • Fill your profiles with tangible competencies • Be aware of the privacy settings, set them accordingly, and check them frequently for usage changes • If sharing a name with someone, differentiate yourself, such as “John A. Smith, Senior Marketing Executive” • Use headshots taken by a professional photographer • If you can’t remove digital dirt, then bury it by creating enough multiple positive web presence points that the bad stuff gets lower search rankings • Untag yourself from friends’ Facebook tags.Follow these suggestions, and you will be well on your way to managing what the world will learn about you. And you don’t have to be a control freak to want or need to have that level of authority.Bill Ryan, founder of Ryan Career Services LLC, Concord, also is a regular blogger on NHBR Network. He can be reached at 603-724-2289 or