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Is Your Online Reputation Business Smart?

May 6, 2010

Your online reputation, on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, may be hurting your career advancement or job search more than you know. This is especially alarming for business women, who generally are more active than men in managing personal relationships via social networks.

A new study indicates that while only seven percent of U.S. consumers surveyed said they believe online information about them could affect their job prospects, 70 percent of U.S. recruiters and human resource management professionals said they have rejected candidates based on information found online.

The study, Online Reputation in a Connected World, was commissioned by Microsoft and conducted in December 2009 by Seattle-based market research firm Cross-Tab.

Other findings:

  • Nearly eight in 10 U.S. recruiters said they check online reputational data.
  • Three-fourths of U.S. recruiters said their companies have policies that require the review of reputational data.
  • 84 percent of U.S. recruiters surveyed believe the use of online reputational data will increase in five years.

Women Online Reputations Impacted more than Men?

“If you have a female recruiter, then you might get judged on different criteria than a male recruiter,” said Lisa Harpe, an industrial psychologist quoted in Human Resource Executive Online.

Male recruiters (86 percent) are more likely than female recruiters (61 percent) to review online reputational information, according to the study.

“There’s some information out there that females actually use social networking [for personal relationships] much more than men do,” Harpe noted. “Women aren’t using it to post job-related information like men may be doing.”

The good news for women professionals: Women are more likely than men (54 percent vs. 39 percent) to consistently consider their online reputations when editing or posting content online.

Online Reputation: What to Avoid

“Because the private actions of employees can now embarrass companies in ways that make headlines and spread around the online world in minutes, hiring processes have changed to include vetting all behavior, not just how someone performs on the job,” according to the study.

Top reasons given by U.S. recruiters for rejecting a candidate, according to the study:

  • Concerns about the candidate’s lifestyle (58 percent).
  • Inappropriate comments and text written by the candidate (56 percent).
  • Unsuitable photos, videos and information (55 percent).
  • Inappropriate comments or text written by friends and relatives (43 percent).
  • Comments criticizing previous employers, co-workers or clients (40 percent).
  • Inappropriate comments or text written by colleagues or work acquaintances (40 percent).
  • Membership in certain groups and networks (35 percent).
  • Discovered that information the candidate shared was false (30 percent).
  • Poor communication skills displayed online (27 percent).
  • Concern about the candidate’s financial background (16 percent).

Good Social Networking Hygiene a Plus

While a poor online reputation can be career damaging, “a strong, positive personal brand online can have a positive impact,” the study said. In the United States, 86 percent of recruiters surveyed said a positive online reputation influences the candidate’s application to some extent; almost half said that it does so to a great extent.

Strategies that people most often use to manage their online reputations include:

  • Searching online for information that has been posted about them.
  • Using alerts to notify them of mention of their name or information.
  • Employing an online reputation management company.
  • Checking a credit report.
  • Checking to see what other people say about them online.
  • Establishing privacy settings on social networking sites.
  • Choosing not to post specific content anywhere online.
  • Contacting a Web site administrator to remove unflattering or untrue content.

In Your Shoes is created by Johnston & Murphy, offering quality shoes and outerwear for women and men. We welcome your comments and contributions.

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