Web anonymity can sink a job search

If an employer Googles you and finds nothing, it might harm your chances of landing the job

If someone searches for you on the web and comes up empty-handed, do you exist?

Considering that a growing number of recruiters and hiring managers are using search engines when gathering impressions of potential employees, the question isn’t as frivolous as it may seem.

In today’s job market, turning up missing on the web may not be a fatal flaw, but over time, the lack of a web presence — particularly for IT professionals — may well turn from a neutral to a negative, says Tim Bray, director of web technologies at Sun Microsystems.

“Particularly because we’re a core technology provider, if someone came looking for a senior-level job and had left no mark on the internet, I’d see that as a big negative,” he says.

Younger job seekers are more likely to participate in web activities than older workers, says Jennifer Stitt, a technical recruiter at Cigital, a software security and quality consultancy. “We have to be very careful not to fall prey to the belief that because a 45-year-old doesn’t have as much out there to be found when Googling, they aren’t a good candidate,” she says.

So how do you make yourself a more web-accessible candidate? If you haven’t done so already, check what people will discover about you through popular search engines such as Google and Yahoo, as well as the lesser-used MSN Search or Ask.com, Bayliss says.

Some recruiters use blog-searching tools such as Technorati, Daypop or Blogdigger. They may also search specific sites, such as MySpace, YouTube or Flickr, or even lesser-known sites they themselves frequent, such as LibraryThing.com, says Rick Umali, a technical consultant at Endeca Technologies.

Some companies sponsor corporate blogs and encourage employee participation. But it’s also possible to establish your own, through free blog hosting sites on the web.

Those not yet ready to start their own blog can begin posting to technology-oriented blogs such as Slashdot.org or Thescripts.com. Be sure to use your full professional name on anything you post, and include a link to the web profile or page that you want people to see first when they search your name, says Nolan Bayliss, founder of Naymz, an online identity services provider. “The more sites that link to your page, the higher that page will display in the search engine results,” he says.

Endeca’s Umali created his own web page years ago to publish some of his writing. Today, his page reflects not just his personality but also his technical strengths and capabilities. For instance, he uses open-source technologies on his page, which demonstrates his capabilities in that area.

He also established his own domain name, Rickumali.com, for the page. “A domain name says, ‘This person is up on what’s going on in the web industry’,” he says.

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