The Impact of Online Reputation on Career Prospects: Insights from Tony McChrystal

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Tony McChrystal, Director of ReputationDefender EMEA, shares his expertise on the influence of online reputation on individuals’ career prospects. As the head of the Europe, Middle East, and Africa division of a leading global online reputation management company, McChrystal sheds light on the importance of taking control of one’s online presence and the potential consequences of online content.

Online reputation management (ORM) empowers individuals and businesses to shape the online conversation surrounding them. An individual’s online reputation significantly affects how they are perceived by others conducting online searches. Managing this reputation is crucial, as it involves proactively promoting a balanced image and countering misleading information to create a favourable impression.

ORM revolves around two cycles: a vicious cycle where individuals neglect their online reputation, leaving them vulnerable to rumours and misinformation, and a virtuous cycle where they actively manage their online presence by generating positive content.

Whether a recent graduate entering the job market or a seasoned professional aiming for career advancement, the absence of positive search results on Google can have a substantial impact on job opportunities. When climbing the corporate ladder, prospective employers increasingly scrutinise an individual’s online reputation, with recruiters now relying on social media to evaluate potential candidates. Consequently, a lack of information about a candidate may raise doubts about their credibility and overall employability.

Both graduates and professionals must pay close attention to their online reputation, as 69% of employers admit to conducting Google searches on job candidates during the screening process, according to a study by CareerBuilder. Posts, pictures, and comments can significantly influence an individual’s employability, with 54% of employers admitting to rejecting a candidate based on their social media content, as reported in the same study. The impact is particularly significant for job seekers aged 16 to 34, with 10% missing out on job opportunities due to their social media activity.

In today’s digital age, the internet is the primary source of information, and people tend to trust its content when making important decisions. Research from Edelman Insights reveals that two-thirds of people consider the internet as the most reliable source of information about an individual. When considering local businesses, 97% of people check online reviews, according to BIA Kelsey. These statistics highlight the potential impact of negative online content on individuals and businesses.

For job seekers, an active presence on social media can be a valuable asset, allowing them to showcase their enthusiasm and expertise in their chosen field. However, it is crucial to assess whether all the content reflects positively on their professional image, as a casual comment made years ago or erroneously associated content can have devastating consequences.

To evaluate one’s digital footprint, it is essential to log out of the browser to ensure search results are not influenced by personal search history. When Googling oneself, adding an occupation or city can help narrow down the results to the most relevant content.

Most individuals do not venture beyond the first page of Google search results. However, if negative material appears on that first page, it can significantly impact a candidate’s job prospects. Content that can jeopardise their chances of employment includes evidence of criminal behavior, substance abuse references, discriminatory statements, disclosure of confidential information about previous employers, provocative images or videos, and negative comments about former colleagues or employers.

For professionals striving to advance their careers, taking a proactive approach to ORM is essential to ensure that their online reputation becomes an asset rather than a liability. Prudent steps include adjusting privacy settings, actively building a positive online presence, addressing inaccuracies, and taking measures to remove negative content.

Whether at the start of their career or already employed, professionals must exercise caution before posting any content on social media, as its impact can be significant and long-lasting.

Even after joining a company, employees should be mindful that their social media activity may still be monitored, as over half of employers admit to keeping tabs on their employees’ social media posts. While it may seem self-focused, conducting a Google search on oneself is a critical first step in understanding one’s digital footprint and safeguarding their professional reputation.

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