When we look at candidates we don't start Googling them until we get past the second interview. So we already know them pretty well before we start our due diligence, which also comes with in depth conversations with references to clarify some things that stuck out to us in the interviews.
Why do we eliminate you?
We generally eliminate candidates after a Google search if we see a red flag, which can be anything from compromising photos (think Laremy Tunsil and his Twitter bong shot) to controversial associations or posts, like your membership in the Church of Satan (not judging, you're just not for us!). A bad Google search can be a killer for a strong candidate especially if you're being judged against another strong candidate and we need to make choice. But another staggering red flag these days is if we find nothing on you on Google, because it tells us that you haven't really been engaging with the world, and we like well-rounded candidates for our company who have been outside of their house in the last 10 years. So if you have suspect Google results, or worse you don't have any results at all, here are 4 things you can do now to optimize yourself for a Google search:
Sounds basic, but many people don't even do this before they go in for an interview. So who knows what they'll find about you? Use quotation marks around your name to make the search is precise, like this "Mark Jacobsen", otherwise Google will try and find every Mark and Jacobsen result available. If another Mark Jacobsen comes up in your searches you may want to add the city you live in as well.
By Googling yourself at least you'll have a baseline for where you stand in a search. You'll be able to see what you should do more of (see tips 2-4 below) and what you should try and eliminate, like some poorly tagged photos of you or a dumb post you made at 2 am, one lonely, drunken Saturday night.
2. Start using social media that's beneficial for job seeking
Social media is probably the easiest way (and most dangerous) to show up in a Google search. It can be awesome if you're doing it right. For example, if you have a good LinkedIn profile and are active using it, then it should likely be the first thing that comes up in a Google search on you. If your profile has some depth to it (and matches some keywords that are found in prominent job descriptions that reflect your skill set), you post articles, you've created a LinkedIn profile link with your name, you comment on other's posts, and you belong to groups, not only will you see your LinkedIn profile rise to the top of a search, but that may be the extent of the searching an employer does on you. Win!
I also have a few Twitter accounts that rank fairly high in a Google search on my name, too. So if you want to get on the first page of search results, start using Twitter to your advantage as well. Keep your interests and posts related to industry and that will go a long way in the eyes of a recruiter.
Other social media works great, too. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. are all terrific for getting more presence in search. Just be aware that if these accounts are personal, then expect employers to dig into that as well. Which leads me to.....
....There is also a dark side to social media, too. The good news is that, because everyone has less privacy nowadays, employers are a bit more forgiving than they were in my early days of job hunting. So you can probably get away with a photo or two of you drinking whiskey straight out of the bottle with your friends. But at the end of the day it doesn't help, either. So try and comb through your social media accounts and see if there's a way to reduce stuff that could be 'taken out of context'. But as I mentioned earlier, if you have personal social media out there, expect employers to get into it.
3. Buy the URL of your name - NOW
A real quick win to getting onto the first page of search results is to buy the URL of your name. And it will cost you a max of about nine bucks. So go to Go Daddy or another provider and get your name now. If it's not available, you may want to try and add a middle initial. If you do that though, then make sure that you use your middle initial on your resume, too. After you've gotten your URL, what should you post online? If you've got nothing to post, then you could just redirect it to your LinkedIn profile. Ideally you could create a simple website where you could post your resume, industry articles or your own comments about the industry you'd like to break into or career path you want to follow. The perfect way to do that is to:
4. Start a blog
Blogs are a dime a dozen. However, they do rise up in Google searches, especially if you post to them often enough. Most people hear this and think, "I don't have time for that!" No kidding! Few of us do. What you can do is just use it as a comment blog on other people's posts. Find a couple of people you respect who post regularly in an area that you'd like to work in. Read their stuff, link to them and comment on it on your own blog. Three things amazingly will happen:
A) You'll rise in Google search results with a web site that's totally relevant to you and the industry you want to break into.
B) You'll be referencing respected people in your field, which makes you look like a keener (note: employers like keeners).
C) You'll learn more about the field you're trying to get into - how can that be a bad thing?
There are lots of other things you can do to get better results on Google, but start with these four and you'll be off to a great start.