You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Prospective employers can access your digital footprint. What are you leaving behind?

Tribune Content Agency logo Tribune Content Agency 7/19/2020 By Kathleen Furore, Tribune Content Agency
a close up of a computer: It is important to keep tabs on your online persona as you navigate the job market. © Dreamstime/TNS It is important to keep tabs on your online persona as you navigate the job market.

DEAR READERS: What will prospective employers find when they search for you online? It’s an especially important question today, as businesses rely on the internet more than ever during the coronavirus shutdown. What are some steps job seekers can take to optimize their online profiles?

If you don’t think what you look line online really matters, you might want to think again — especially if you’re looking for a new job or plan to look for one soon.

According to a recent Harris poll, 78% of U.S. adults believe it is very important to look up information about people and/or businesses online before deciding to interact with them.

“The range of information employers might find about you online is vast — it will likely be both professional and personal, positive and/or negative, and accurate and/or inaccurate — and typically, it’s a combination of all of these,” says Rich Matta, CEO of ReputationDefender, a firm in the field of online reputation management and privacy. “Even though employers are mostly looking for professional information and accomplishments, they will also stumble upon personal information about you, particularly if it shows on the first page of your Google search results.”

Add to that the fact that employers often use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to see a candidate’s online presence, and the importance of optimizing your profile becomes crystal clear.

“Often, ATS will parse links from the candidate’s resume, such as their LinkedIn profile or portfolio, and put it in a candidate profile so that the recruiter can get a more holistic view of the candidate,” explains Linda Qu, marketing coordinator at Jobscan. “In some cases, the ATS can actually scrub popular social media sites to find the candidate’s personal social media profiles. This is usually done by taking the email address attached to the application and finding social media profiles associated with that email address, including but not limited to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, GitHub and AngelList.”

a woman smiling for the camera: Kathleen Furore. © Provided by Tribune Content Agency Kathleen Furore.

As Anthony Naglieri, vice president of strategic communications at Petal, LLC, says, “When it comes to the job search, you are who the internet says you are.”

So what’s an avid social media user to do?

Search your name on Google. Pay careful attention to what appears on the first page of results. “Studies show that four in five people do an online search before interacting or doing business with others, and over 90% of these people never go past page one,” Matta says. “It’s vitally important that job seekers establish some degree of control over how they’re represented on the first page of their Google search results.” ReputationDefender offers a free reputation report card that helps people find out how they appear to others online.

Review all public-facing profiles. Naglieri says to make sure you clear your internet cache or use an alternate browser to see what turns up when people search for you. “Put quotes around your name or key terms to narrow down the search,” he adds.

Think beyond LinkedIn. Keeping your LinkedIn profile updated is definitely important, but it’s not enough to make you stand out — which is why it is important to update your info on all platforms you use, Matta says.

“If your LinkedIn profile is out of step with the rest of your online reputation, that can even raise red flags,” he cautions. “Prospective employers are going to want to see a consistent picture of you across multiple channels. This includes the resume and materials you submit with your application, what your references say about you, and the whole spectrum of online content connected to your name — what shows up in your search results, your public-facing social media profiles, any information about you on the websites of professional organizations or industry forums, and so on.”

Review privacy settings. “Be true to yourself but know exactly what information you’re making publicly available about yourself at all times,” warns Naglieri. “Don’t forget to review the privacy settings closely within each site. The internet always remembers, so be sure to review sites where you’re regularly active and where you may no longer be.”

“Make sure profile pictures and posts are something they’d want their future employer to see,” Qu adds. “Err on the side of caution when posting publicly about religion or politics.”

Develop a professional portfolio. Naglieri notes that this is standard practice in creative fields like writing, design and photography. “But most anyone can and should do it, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic,” he says. “Hiring managers want to learn about past performance and successes — make it easy for them. Creating an page is a simple and fast alternative to establishing a professional portfolio and makes it easy for people to find the information and profiles you want them to.”

Monitor mentions of your name. Naglieri says setting up Google alerts is the easiest way to do this, but notes there are others. “I prefer leveraging RSS feeds through Feedly, he says.

Create a website. Matta encourages job seekers to create their own websites “to build a well-rounded digital persona — an online hub that contains their bio, work history, published content or blog entries, images, and other important information.

“A simple, professional website that highlights your accomplishments and any recent work samples is a great way to tie together everything for potential employers,” Matta continues. “These websites tend to rank highly in most people’s search results, so they’ll get noticed — and they give you the chance to contextualize everything else that employers find online. That in turn can determine whether you are called in for a second interview — and ultimately if you land the job.”

(Kathleen Furore is a Chicago-based writer and editor who has covered personal finance and other business-related topics for a variety of trade and consumer publications. You can email her your career questions at

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon