Home » Expat & International Careers: Your Online Identity is Critical Part of the Hiring Process

Expat & International Careers: Your Online Identity is Critical Part of the Hiring Process

Your online identity is what the results say about you when you type your name into a search engine. Not important? Think again.

Building and maintaining a strong branded online presence is critical to success for the expat professional, executive and entrepreneur. Studies have shown that just under three quarters of employers through out North America, Europe and many parts of Asia use information about candidates they find online in their hiring decisions. Colleagues and clients also use information online to make assessments about a person’s credibility.

Business survival means not only getting found online by clients or customers, but engaging with your target market through various platforms and media. How many businesses would you hire or buy from before looking at what Google had to say about them first?An online identity strategy should be a part of every expat’s career or business management plan.

Your Online Identity is a Critical Part of the Hiring Process

Unfortunately there are many misconceptions around the hiring process that can throw off the international job seeker from understanding how to position themselves for career success abroad.

The influence of online information on the hiring process is well studied. A recent Microsoft study (one of the studies I referred to above) regarding online reputation and its affect on the hiring process across North America and Europe report that:

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• Up to 85% of recruiters and hiring managers Google potential candidates’ names as part of their reference check
• Up to 70% of them have used information they’ve found online to determine that a candidate was no longer suitable for the job.

The top in all categories was the US, followed closely by the UK, France and Germany. These percentages have been growing year after year.

The new world of work and increasing influence the “online” world has on the “offline” world of people being hired means we must be aware of the role online identity plays in securing jobs.

What Google Says About You is Part of Your Job Application

A common misconception is that the first “point of contact” or exposure to your documented experience and qualifications is your resume or CV.

Today’s reality is that given the global war for talent, recruiters are leveraging social media more than any other took to seek out top talent. This means your online profiles and bios are what make that first impression and can make or break you from being considered for opportunities.

Also quite often employees are incentivized to refer people for openings and often advocate for colleagues looking for new job opportunities. Given this, a link to a LinkedIn profile, bio or short summary of a person’s qualifications is often the first information a decision maker or HR staff member will receive about a potential candidate.

The bottom line is building a strong online identity is just as important as your resume or CV to getting your next job.

Reference Checks are No Longer Relegated to The Names You Provide Employers

Another misconception is that you have control over who an employer considers a reference.

Today’s reality is that candidates are being sought out online. Hence online recommendations and endorsements are considered in the review of a person’s qualifications given such easy access to them. One might describe it as the step of checking references is being moved to much earlier stage in the hiring process. At the point of hiring, online endorsements are certainly checked in addition to the calls made to references you provide.

Initial Candidate Screening Does Not Always Mean A Review of a Resume or CV

Another big misconception is that when the resume or CV is in the hands of the HR department, decision makers and all those who weigh in on the hiring process will take the time to thoroughly review it.

Today’s reality is we live in a world where attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. Going online and getting a quick summary of what a person is all about – especially if the top third of their resume or CV does not provide a powerful, branded profile that makes a quick review easy – is becoming more and more common. People often prefer information provided in quick digestible bites than in the more extended resume or CV format.

This is also why there are such a plethora of new documents being created that serve as addendums to these more traditional formats. I use over 5 alternative formats for communicating my clients’ qualifications when submitted in document form.

That said, it is important to remember that strong branded resumes, CVs and addition career marketing materials are CRITICAL to getting hired – especially once you’ve made the short list for a position. I would never endorse not having those documents in anything but tip top shape. However they are not playing as much of a role in the initial screening process as they used to.

How Can Your Online Identity Hurt You?

As one of the first certified online identity strategists globally, I have been helping expat professionals, executives and consultants understand their current online reputation and strategically build a strong online presence that will support their goals since 2006. I have seen numerous ways that a person’s online reputation (or lack of one) has had a significant impact – good and bad – on their professional life.

One of the biggest ways that a person’s online reputation can hurt them is when they have “digital dirt” or unsupportive information that may exist about them online. Unless it is buried very deep in an Internet search’s results, this “digital dirt” will inevitably be discovered by anyone doing reference checks. It could affect someone’s chances of making the short list for a job or even prevent that final job offer from being made after that person was chosen as the top candidate for a position.

Once their “digital dirt” has been cleaned up and a stronger online presence has been established, then it’s critical that they use tools to monitor their online presence to insure that their unique message of value is clearly articulated online on an ongoing basis. By regularly generating on brand content online, they can be assured the story that a prospective employer or client reads about them online is one that will support their goals.

Google your name. What does your online presence say about you?

About the author: Megan Fitzgerald is an expat and international career coach, founder of Career By Choice and expert guide to the world of global careers. She has two decades of experience supporting professionals, executives, entrepreneurs and organizations in 40+ countries. Megan uses a strategic, 360°approach to help expats become highly visible, sought after experts and leaders and succeed abroad. She’s been featured in Fortune Magazine, CNN Money, Wall Street Journal Online and numerous expat and career books and publications. You can read more about expat careers at her blog.