Whether you like it or not, people are screening you online. Because of this, the team at BrandYourself designed new software to calculate your Reputation Score. Your Reputation Score shows you whether your online reputation is helping you or hurting you (more on that later). From potential employers to clients, to admissions officers to first dates, there’s a good chance that somebody is googling your name online. 75% of HR departments are required to look up candidates online. While this may not come as a surprise exactly, it’s important to note that your personal brand can have a significant impact on your life!
Wait, what is a Reputation Score?
Your Reputation Score tells you whether your online presence is helping or hurting your career. It lets you know if you would:
Pass an online/social media background check
Fail an online/social media background check
Excel in an online/social media background check
BrandYourself’s Reputation Score is the only technology that accurately scours the entire web to match your images, social media updates, Google results, and more against a known database of red flags and reinforcing factors that employers use to screen you. Your Reputation Score is like a credit score for your digital footprint.
Similar to a credit score, your Reputation Score can range from “Very Poor” to “Excellent.” Your actual score tops out at a maximum of 800 points. People with higher scores are statistically more likely to win career opportunities than those who have lower scores.
How our software calculates your Reputation Score
At BrandYourself, we’ve developed an algorithm that quantifies just how much your online presence is helping you or hurting you. BrandYourself’s developers spent thousands of hours designing software that recognizes online content associated with your name that will likely damage your reputation. By “damage your reputation,” we mean it gets you fired, passed over for a promotion, rejected from a job, school, scholarship, business partnership, etc.
BrandYourself’s developers spent hours researching the most common red flag factors and positive reinforcing factors that hiring officers typically identify as reasons to pass over or hire prospective candidates.
BrandYourself’s Reputation Score technology identifies the number and severity of negative search results in comparison to the quality and volume of positive search results for your name.
This technology pulls from the latest data and research available by industry to then quantify how much these factors are impacting your earning potential. The software looks at your Google Reputation Score, social Reputation Score, and other factors to come up with the all-encompassing Reputation Score. Think of it as a reputation report card of sorts.
Remember, the higher your Reputation Score, the greater your chances of winning professional opportunities.
Determine whether this number means that your current online reputation is helping you or hurting you; that will be a good indicator of how much work you have in front of you. For the most part, a Reputation Score of “Good” or better means that your online reputation is working in your favor. However, even if that’s the case, there’s always room for improvement. If you’re Reputation Score pegs you at anything less than “Good,” get to work immediately; you’re losing out on opportunities that you don’t even know about.
No matter where you are, start by following the prompts.
The technology used to calculate your “Reputation Score” uses your social Reputation Score and Google Reputation Score to come up with that overall number. Mark the first 100 search results that came up for your name as “Positive,” “Negative,” or “Neutral.” That will give our software the best information possible to calculate your Reputation Score and report as accurately as possible.
From here, make sure to connect and scan your Facebook and Twitter profiles to our SocialScanner and ImageScanner. Our software will scan both of these accounts to identify more potentially damaging content. This process is critical to our technology getting an accurate read on your social Reputation Score.
In minutes, our software retrieves any questionable content linked to your account, It then gives you the option to delete it or ignore it. Review each flagged item and delete or ignore it, depending on what makes the most sense for your situation. Remember, how you mark each of these flagged items will contribute to your social Reputation Score.
Once you’ve marked all search results and reviewed all flagged posts and images, it’s time to get to work.
The easiest way to improve your social Reputation Score and maximize your earning potential is to minimize current or future risk factors and follow your customized Action Plan in the BrandYourself dashboard.
Your customized Action Plan identifies the next actions you can take that will yield the greatest impact on your Reputation Score (and, more importantly, your online reputation). In addition to these steps, make sure to connect, build or optimize relevant websites and social media on your Properties page.
No matter what your current Reputation Score is, it can always be better. By regularly following the steps in BrandYourself’s dashboard over time, you’ll create the kind of online reputation (and earn the Reputation Score) that you deserve.
About those red flags and your Reputation Score
As mentioned earlier, your social Reputation Score and Google Reputation Score are used along with data attached to common “red flag” content to come up with your overall Reputation Score. Our technology focuses on damaging content that tends to keep people from working with you, hiring you, dating you, etc. While the list below is by no means exhaustive, this should give you a good idea of what most employers will consider a fireable/non-promotable/un-hireable offense:
1. Unprofessional Behavior
Forget about tanking your Reputation Score (don’t actually) – unprofessional behavior online keeps you from getting hired. Think about it, if someone from HR is trying to decide whether or not you’d be a good fit for their company, they need to make sure that there’s no obvious evidence that you’re unprofessional. If there is information out there that suggests this, then they’re liable if you repeat that sort of action once hired. “Unprofessional” can mean a variety of different things depending on who you ask.
There are some obvious examples of unprofessional behavior like publicly complaining about co-workers, bosses, past employers, etc. But then there are other behaviors that may not be quite as obvious to some. For example, mentions of skipping or showing up late for school or work can come off as extremely unprofessional, even if these kinds of comments are just said in jest. Additionally, if you post online about something that you did when you should have been at work or school, you’re flaunting that you lied and didn’t actually care about your job or school. Demonstrating that you don’t care about your education or career (with your words, original posts, or shared content) is extremely unprofessional. Not only with this adversely impact your Reputation Score, but future employers will take note of this and any other behavior that could be perceived as questionable in the workplace.
2. Unprofessional Communication Style
Whether you’re trying to win clients or get into your dream college, how you communicate can have a serious effect on the outcome of your online screening (and your Reputation Score). At BrandYourself, we want to make sure that our clients and subscribers have the best chance at succeeding at their goals. And according to our research, “unprofessional communication style” is a surprisingly common reason why people get rejected after undergoing an online screening. It’s easy to overlook this when posting or commenting on your social media – you’re talking to your friends. Unfortunately, that relaxed attitude can hurt when it comes time for any important online screenings. The use of swear words or profanity is quickly flagged as a potential dealbreaker.
And poor grammar or spelling also incites concern since “professional communication” is integral in so many work environments. So the next time you post something, imagine that a future boss is trying to decide whether or not you have a “demonstrated ability to communicate effectively in professional settings.”
3. Drinking or Drug Use
While there are, of course, some exceptions to this (i.e., you’re a sommelier and took pictures during a company wine-tasting trip to a vineyard), it’s best to avoid sharing content that features you drinking or engaging in recreational drug use.
Again, some pictures (sipping a glass of wine on vacation) may be fairly tame, but even those can get you fired, depending on your job. If you don’t want to delete all photos where you’re drinking, just make sure that those that you keep don’t feature you drinking excessively or completely wasted.
Avoid posting photos of chugging beer, doing keg stands, recklessly partying, or anything else that would make your mother cringe. Even if you weren’t completely wasted when the photos were taken, you’re effectively guilty by association in the eyes of anyone screening you.
And when it comes to drugs or illegal substances, avoid posting pictures, videos, comments, song lyrics, etc., that reference this kind of lifestyle. This applies to illegal drugs or prescription drugs. Either way, your future employer will likely red flag this sort of content, and your Reputation Score will take a hit.
4. Criminal Behavior
While this may seem pretty straightforward, it bears repeating when considering your Reputation Score and job prospects. Avoid posting, sharing, or making any comments that suggest admission of guilt for illegal behavior or activity. Even if you don’t say something explicitly, there are typically enough context clues that aren’t that hard to fill in if someone is scrutinizing your online presence.
People often run into trouble with this when alluding to underage drinking, taking drugs, and “pranks.” Things that are often labeled as “pranks” online are actually just misdemeanors – or even felonies, depending on the situation. Refrain from the admission of any illegal behavior like shoplifting, breaking and entering, theft, vandalism, etc.
5. Polarizing Views
This can be a bit tricky depending on how outspoken you like to be, where you work and what you do. However, typically, we suggest that users avoid making extreme statements about hot topics like religion, politics, etc. The reason we say this is because most people evolve over time, and extreme viewpoints (especially if they don’t align with the values of your potential employer) are flagged.
Also, you may not be able to walk back polarizing statements you share publicly today if your views change in the future. Additionally, a lot of nuances can be lost online, and something you discussed with friends in real life over a 4-hour dinner may not translate to a 140-character tweet. Furthermore, you may not want to lead with your most controversial views when applying for jobs. In other cases, polarizing views may be unavoidable. For example, if you are a politician or social activist, there’s a good chance that some of your views are polarizing.
So choose whether or not to take up extreme positions on controversial current events and issues based on your particular situation. And remember that this can impact your Reputation Score.
6. Sexually Explicit Content
Unless you work in an industry that encourages frank discussion about sex (sex education, sex therapy, or adult entertainment), avoid sexually explicit content at all costs. This includes posting about sexual behavior, genitals, porn, etc. And definitely avoid posting sexually provocative photos or videos.
Make a point to avoid any other sexually charged content that could make someone feel uncomfortable. Again, HR will pay particular attention to this kind of content as a potential liability – as will your Reputation Score. So why risk it, especially if it has no relevance to your professional life?
7. Violence or Bullying
At baseline, employers are interested in cultivating a safe work environment that lets employees be as efficient at their jobs as possible. Most employees take a zero-tolerance approach to anyone who ruins that with the threat of violence or bullying. Not only does it reduce productivity in employees and sour the company culture, but it’s also a huge liability. Employers can’t knowingly hire people who demonstrate these kinds of attitudes or behaviors. This means that you should avoid using hostile speech online. And never hurl hateful insults or threats online. Even if this was empty, taken out of context, or “just a joke,” employers will look at it as a red flag reason not to hire you.
There are other more subtle examples of this kind of behavior, like photos or footage of you giving the middle finger or flashing other lewd gestures. Even if you were just kidding around with friends when this was taken, this type of content has the ability to reduce your Reputation Score and ruin your chances of landing that job. Another behavior that employers are very sensitive to is people who talk excessively about using weapons, showing off their armory, or threatening/fantasizing about hurting others with real or imagined weapons.
8. Bigoted Behavior
When it comes to screening you online, the person looking you up online will immediately be turned off by examples of bigoted behavior. Discriminatory remarks toward race, gender, religion, country of origin, sexual orientation, or any other indication of intolerance toward groups of people will not serve you. This is a HUGE red flag. Not only does it show that you will create an uncomfortable or unsafe environment at work, but you are also a walking liability. If anyone of your co-workers or an external source discovers your online presence, your employer’s reputation will also suffer.
And if you don’t view yourself as a bigoted person, reconsider what it is that you’re posting, sharing and how you’re engaging online. Maybe certain things that you consider to be jokes are actually hurtful and offensive to other people. Or maybe something isn’t getting translated properly through the online medium.
Avoid the red flags listed above
Because these are the behaviors most likely to get you booted from consideration for your next professional opportunity and decrease your Reputation Score. More importantly, if you notice any trends when reviewing your online presence (like you only post about your sword collection, have to delete 50 pictures of you drinking straight bottles of whiskey, or apparently post a lot of bigoted content), take some time to reflect on this. Is that who you are? Do you have a problem that you need to get help for? Do you just need to diversify what you post about? Whatever it is, make a note of this, as it will help determine the direction of your branding strategy going forward. It may also help you grow as a person.
Increase your Reputation Score and professional prospects with positive reinforcing factors
Actively building your personal brand is a must if you want a better Reputation Score and to land that next professional opportunity. Getting rid of damaging search results is only part of the process of improving your Google Reputation Score and social Reputation Scores. And remember, there’s no need to dwell on negative content about you that you can’t control. Focus on accentuating the positive and building up the assets that make up your personal brand.
During this building phase, you need to cultivate a brand that demonstrates “positive reinforcing factors.” In addition to researching what online factors instantly discourage employers from hiring people, our developers researched content that attracts employers. After scouring through existing studies, reviewing trends in our own user-generated data, and more – we’ve identified the most important positive reinforcing factors.
While the following list does not include everything that you can do to increase the likelihood of an employer hiring you or a college accepting you, this is the most effective place to start.
1. Concrete examples of your professional behavior
Just as “unprofessional behavior” is a top red flag, clear examples of your professionalism make you a more desirable candidate. So how exactly can you show “professionalism” when building your own brand? There are very concrete ways to show the caliber of your professionalism, but there are also more subtle ways that your personal brand can demonstrate this too. In terms of the obvious examples, make sure to highlight your leadership experience and skills.
Whether you stepped up to lead your team at work when your supervisor was ill, headed a professional development group with co-workers, or have demonstrated leadership skills outside of the office – showcase it. In addition to making sure that you feature this in your bio and on your LinkedIn account, work to incorporate this into your content strategy if possible. Share the most recent presentation you made to your group of mentees, write a post about what it felt like to take on more responsibility and start a Facebook group dedicated to your professional development pursuits. What’s most important is that you share this side of yourself with the people who are screening you online.
While mentioned briefly above, remember that LinkedIn is the go-to professional networking site.
That means it’s in your best interest to pay particular attention to keeping your presence there up to date, active, thoughtful, and polished (according to a small study). By focusing your efforts on how you look on LinkedIn, you have a great platform to really highlight your strengths and experiences with leadership.
In addition to incorporating your leadership activities into your social presence and staying active on LinkedIn, you’ve also got to add any awards or recognition that you’ve received. This serves as an additional form of validating that you behave professionally.
And don’t forget to include descriptions of yourself, your skills, your past experiences, and your future goals in ways that directly relate to the qualifications necessary for the job you’re applying for. This shows that you are not only capable of the job but that you also did your homework and highlighted what will work best for this future employer. This makes the review process that much easier for the hiring manager. It will also increase your social Reputation Score, Google Reputation Score, and overall Reputation Score.
2. Ability to Communicate Professionally
While we touched on what unprofessional communication looks like in the red flags section, let’s consider what it looks like to communicate professionally – according to hiring officers and employers. When a potential employer looks you up online, they want to find language that is free of spelling & grammatical errors. They’re looking for language that is “appropriate” for the workplace. But most importantly, they want proof that you are invested in your industry. This facet of professional communication means that you are writing, posting, and sharing information that is relevant to your industry. It doesn’t matter if you work in real estate, academia, auto-body repair, or hedge funds. The point is that the content of what you share online should reflect some aspect of your professional life.
3. Professional Images, Photos and Videos
When vetting potential hires, employers need to know that the photos connected to your name are appropriate for work. Images and videos should reinforce your professional pursuits; when looking for a top editor for your videos, Tracy has worked on commercials, movies, and music videos. So make sure to take photos at that panel you spoke on or at that conference you attended.
Demonstrate that you commit some of your free time to independently developing yourself as a professional and growing your network. But you’re not a robot. Hiring managers also want to see images that tell them about your hobbies. You are a human person, after all, and potential employers want to learn more about your interests and who you are. So make sure to incorporate evidence of the things that make you, you!
4. Appropriate Online Engagement
Hiring managers want to find the best candidate for the job who also fits well with the company’s culture. So when they look you up online, they are looking for evidence that you are this person. They aren’t just looking for reasons to reject you!
The way that you choose to engage online can persuade a hiring manager to flat-out reject you or convince them to hire you. That’s why engaging online in a way that shows that you’re interested in what you do, have hobbies, and have common sense about what is and is not appropriate can potentially determine whether or not you land a job.
But “appropriate online engagement” is a broad and subjective concept.
That’s why we’ve teased out different ways to showcase that you know how to appropriately engage online.
First of all, use your online presence as proof that you’re engaged in relevant communities linked to your professional life.
Whether that means a regional or national organization related to your industry or something a little less formal, hiring managers to want to see that you’ve made these kinds of connections.
Hiring managers also want to see that you regularly update your properties. This shows that you’re keeping up to date with industry trends and that if they hire you, you will make them look good! Hiring managers are also looking for the third-party information that supports that you are credible and vetted as a talented industry professional and employee.
This kind of appropriate engagement online not only ups your chances with your future employer but this kind of engagement will also improve your overall Reputation Score. Avoid engaging in groups or hobbies that are against your company’s policies. Additionally, avoid posting or sharing polarizing views that are discriminatory, bigoted, sexist, etc. Along those lines, do not bully or harass people online. Review our section on red flags if you start to notice an inappropriate trend in the kinds of content that you’re posting.
5. Life Outside of Work
Your personal brand gives you the chance to express who you are outside of office hours. Hiring managers want to ensure fit as best as they possibly can when hiring new candidates. That’s why what you post about your life outside of work has the potential to help you. By sharing what it is that you’re passionate about and how you spend your free time, you paint a rounded picture of who you are as a person.
That’s why it’s typically a good idea to include examples of any extracurriculars, hobbies, interests, and passions in the fabric of your personal brand online. Love traveling? Make sure that you document this on your Instagram account. Obsessed with baking? Get your Pinterest page together. The list goes on; just remember to focus on hobbies or passions that you genuinely enjoy and that are appropriate to share at the office.
When your Reputation Score matters most
Now that you understand what will get you hired (or accepted) and what will get you rejected let’s talk about when you need to worry about your Reputation Score.
The short answer is that your Reputation Score is always relevant. That’s because it’s an indicator of how you look to others online based on the combination of positive and negative information attached to your name. No matter what stage of your career or life you’re currently in, someone is screening you online. Googling is a verb for a reason – we do it all the time.
Your Reputation Score is always important because it tells you if your online brand is improving or damaging your estimated income and other professional and personal opportunities.
However, there are certain points when your Reputation Score is even more important than usual.
Consider working extra hard to improve your Reputation Score before:
Applying to school
Whether you’re applying to college, a training program, or graduate school, you will get screened online during the application process.
47% of admissions officers who looked up applicants online say that what they found had a positive impact on students’ application efforts. (Kaplan)
Applying for a new job
86% of U.S. recruiters and HR professionals say that a positive online reputation influences their hiring decisions.
Nearly half say that a strong online reputation influences their decisions to a great extent. (From CrossTab’s “Online Reputation in a Connected World”)
Accepting a leadership role or opening a business
And if you’re a CEO, executive, or business owner, positive factors in your online presence still matter. 77% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company whose CEO and leadership team engages on social media. And 82% of consumers are more likely to trust a company whose CEO and leadership team engages on social media.
Other reasons to build up your online presence and social media engagement as a CEO include the following (Weber Shandwick):
- Positive impact on company’s reputation: 78%
- Helps build relationships with news media: 75%
- Makes executives on your team feel inspired (52%), technologically advanced (46%), and proud (41%).
- You’re more likely to be seen as a good communicator than if you don’t post on social media (55% vs. 38%, respectively).
All of this should just reinforce the fact that now is the right time to focus on improving your Reputation Score and overall online presence.
Wherever you are in your career, a strong online personal brand is in your best professional and financial interest! Get a headstart on that next milestone by building your personal brand now.
How to get started using BrandYourself’s DIY tool
At BrandYourself, we take online reputations seriously, and our mission is to provide everyone with the software and services they need to take control of their online presence. Our newest features give you even more insight into how you look online, the impact that it’s having on your career, and steps you can take to improve how you look online.
And it’s not hard to do. We built our software to walk you through the process. Start by getting your free Reputation Score.
To increase your earning potential and improve your online Reputation Score, log in once a week and spend 30 minutes following your customize Action Plan. Over the course of a year, you’ll see significant improvements.
If you don’t have time to improve your Reputation Score by yourself, we can do it for you. Check out our Managed Services, and give us a call at 646.863.8226 or schedule a consultation to discuss your options.