Online reputation is now as important as a CV and cover letter when applying for senior roles, writes Sarcha Every, Director of Christchurch human resource and recruitment company Decipher Group.

Developing a strong personal brand in the digital space is vital for professionals applying for senior management, executive and governance level roles. With the plethora of social networking platforms to keep on top of, candidates can easily make mistakes. Here are six common ones.

Leaving your online reputation to chance
The biggest blunder you can make is not taking full ownership of your online reputation. The first step to remedy this mistake is to undertake regular audits of your online profile. Start by Googling yourself so that you can assess all the information recruiters will be faced with. You’re only as good as your top 10 searches, so it’s vital to exercise a degree of control over what recruiters and potential employers find when they search for you.

The next step is develop a strong, professional social media presence. Instead of passively waiting for a current employer to endorse your skills on LinkedIn or post about a recent industry event that you presented at, take charge of your profile and posts so that you can stay in control of how you are likely to be perceived by others. Don’t be afraid to showcase your accomplishments – LinkedIn is the platform for selling your skills and experience to the market.

Inconsistent information
Regardless of what social media channel you use, the information you share with the public should paint the same picture. Be consistent with job titles, role descriptions and the duration spent with each company. Remove any conflicting pieces of information and anything that may raise a red flag.

It’s also important to provide clarification where clarifications is due. For example, you may wish to provide greater detail about your roles and responsibilities for a specific job or why you’ve chosen to participate in a public group forum online. Candidates vying for leadership positions need to ensure their online story mirrors their personal brand.

Not hitting the “untag” button
As unpopular as it may seem, candidates need to be ruthless when it comes to untagging themselves from flattering or off-brand photos and posts. This may include high school photos, old social media posts, a blog or anything that may influence a negative perception about you and discredit your professional credibility. Removing yourself from questionable associations before you start applying for leadership roles will increase your chances of success.

Opinionated over-sharers
While not a hard-and-fast rule, it’s best to steer clear of posting any comments around religion, race, sexual orientation and politics. Most employment agreements include a clause stating that employees should not tarnish the company’s image, and analysing a candidate’s social media behaviour is a good way for recruiters and employers to gauge this. Posts showing excessive partying, illegal substances, overtly sexual stances, or complaints about former employers are
serious red flags. The same goes for the use of offensive Twitter handles or hashtags, inappropriate screen names and email addresses.

Trolling and negative tone
Everything from inappropriate comments to online bullying has the propensity to eliminate you from a candidate shortlist for a top leadership position. Don’t think twice about deleting any comments that were posted in the heat of the moment. Even a justified rant about receiving poor customer service at an inner city restaurant on your Facebook page can place you in an unprofessional light. As top senior management professionals are often expected to be advocates for the company in which they are employed, recruiters will look for confident candidates who inspire people with positivity and professionalism.

Underestimating influence
Many senior management professionals are very time-pressed and can easily fall into the habit of prioritising other tasks ahead of cultivating their online presence. But an underutilised social media presence can work against you. Recruiters and employers are actively searching for talent who are thought leaders and early adopters of new technology relevant to their industry. Key metrics such as likes, shares, retweets, endorsements and the quality of your online professional network will be assessed. Establishing yourself as an authority figure in the digital space should be a top priority.

The Weekend Press – Career Market | October 2017

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