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Penny de Valk



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The importance of digital reputation management


One of the key people management trends for 2014 will be digital reputation management. With the continuing rise of social media and HR professionals becoming savvier to this, everyone will soon need to start thinking about how they are presenting themselves online.                       

The importance of reputation

The importance of reputation to a person’s employability is nothing ground-breaking. After all, a reference is just one person putting their own reputation on the line for another’s. However, whereas in the past personal reputation was easy for job seekers to control, the digital world allows potential employers to look through the ‘shop window’ and see notably more of a candidate’s work and life online.

Employers have the potential to gather insight beyond just the job seekers’ CVs or how they present themselves face to face in an interview situation; there is also the digital footprint to consider. Whether they should do so, of course, is another debate entirely.  A professional network, such as LinkedIn, presents a great opportunity for candidates to showcase skills, expertise and interesting ideas, as well as to receive endorsements and make contacts.  More personal digital platforms, such as blogs or social media pages such as Facebook and Twitter are more controversial territory for employment background checks.

Keen social media consumers must to be mindful to be professional at all times, remembering that often these pages can be accessed freely and by anyone. I’m sure everyone has heard a story of an indiscreet Facebook post or Tweet which has landed the author in hot water.

Such digital faux pas can contaminate a good name quickly – just like in the off-line world, reputations take a long time to build yet can be reduced to ruin in minutes. The key for avoiding these is for candidates to remain professional and consistent across all platforms and to appear online as they would in the office.

Generation Y seem to have the advantage in this area. Having been surrounded by technology all their lives they are taking digital reputation building seriously, with recruiters starting to see CVs peppered with QR codes and video links. This generation operate their social lives on social media and will not expect their working lives to be different.

However, it’s not just recent graduates who need to consider their digital life. HR professionals are starting to look at applicants’ digital reputation management from the boardroom down. When looking for a potential board member they might look into blogs and pieces candidates have written to identify areas of expertise. This can only enhance a candidate’s reputation and help support what they have included on their CV.

Digital reputation is sector-neutral

Digital reputation is also not dependent on which sector a candidate works within. It might be easy to dismiss it as more important to media types and the creative industries but having a solid digital reputation is just as crucial for the financial or HR professional as it is for someone working within marketing. Even in a sector like financial services a reputation for say, commercial acumen, demonstrated in online blogs on the topic, can help candidates to stand out from the crowd and demonstrate expertise and professionalism.

Social media users should also consider their digital footprint when not searching for a new role. It may influence how they are seen and treated within a company and then when it comes time to look for a new job they will have already built a strong online presence. It is increasingly important to manage and grow digital reputation throughout your career in order to build to show a history of expertise and professionalism.

When it comes to building a positive digital footprint, professionals should begin with the end result in mind. They should be clear about what characteristics and areas of expertise they want to be known for and what sort of public impression they want to get across to their current and future colleagues, clients and employers and then make sure that this is consistent across all social media interactions.

The big picture

Lastly, professionals would do well to remember that their digital footprint is just one element of building a reputation. What is more important than what they say about themselves online is how they behave and interact with others on a day to day basis. As such, it is those who look at the big picture of how they come across who will hold an advantage, as personal reputation and integrity continues to grow in importance, and employers and HR professionals begin to look for a fuller picture of the applicant’s working life.