What Is Your Authentic Identity?

How many online profiles have you created? Your “authentic identity” is more than a LinkedIn page detailing your professional accomplishments and industry connections. It is a collection of profiles across the Internet. Having an authentic identity on the Internet today, especially for a job seeker, means broad consistency across a candidate’s social networking mediums. Preferably, it is a convincing picture of candidates and gives them professional credibility. A poor presence is one that consists of questionable content that can call candidates’ discretion, or worse, their character into question.

This issue of having a consistent online presence is increasingly important as social media expands and matures. We think of Google primarily as a search engine and of Facebook mostly as a social networking site, but those legacy businesses obscure the fact that these companies are fighting a battle to be the keepers of your online identity. Google and Facebook accounts are becoming universal logins required for admission to news, entertainment and commercial sites. Want to post a comment on YouTube? Log in first with your Google account. You want to “Like” an item on a news aggregation site? Log in via Facebook. You want to leave a review bashing the service you received at your neighborhood café, use Yelp. While your Yelp account name isn’t your “real” name, isn’t the picture on your profile actually you? The days of interacting online anonymously or with a pseudonym are numbered. The Web tracks your online presence, and that online presence is being propagated and connected through new outlets.

Job candidates must be mindful of the presence they create online and the tracks they leave behind. When less-than-flattering photos surface on a friend’s public Facebook  wall, good stewards of their “authentic online identity” take action and ask their social networking friend to take the photo down or at least remove the tag that identifies them. From the recruiter’s perspective, a candidate with a compromising online presence is one with either poor judgment or a lack of Web savvy.

While reports of the death of paper résumés are greatly exaggerated, the résumé can now take a variety of online forms – from a LinkedIn account to a professionally geared Facebook page, a Prezi or a personal website. That leads to a network effect in which more and more people are posting their profiles online, and more and more recruiters perform a free and quick Web search to vet candidates. Does the term of your most recent employment on LinkedIn match what you put in the resume you forwarded to that recruiter? It had better.

To sum it up, a job seeker’s online identity on social networks and elsewhere on the Web is an increasingly important tool to help candidates promote themselves. A good online presence is like good credit in that it’s up to people to establish and maintain it for themselves. And as a free, fast and frequently effective means to assess candidates, the concept of “authentic identity” is a boon to recruiters as well.