How to Protect and Repair Your Online Reputation to Get the Job You Want After 50

By Kerry Hannon

Copyright © 2015 AARP. All rights reserved.

To get the job you want after 50, you need to build and maintain a solid online presence. According to a CareerBuilder survey, more than two in five hiring managers who currently research candidates via social media said they have found information that caused them to pass over an applicant.

To improve your chances of getting hired, find out what’s on the web about you, take steps to remove any potentially harmful content, and make sure everything you post sheds a positive light on you or is at least neutral.

Know what’s already “out there” about you

Run a background check on yourself. Conduct an online search for your name and follow the top 10 to 20 links to see what’s posted about you. Remove anything that may reflect poorly on you. If you can’t remove it yourself, contact the site manager and request to have it removed.

Review everything on your Facebook Timeline, and remove anything you don’t want employers or recruiters to see. Check out posts you’re tagged in and untag yourself if the post contains any content, including photos, that may reflect poorly on you. Review photos you’ve posted on Facebook or other sites that may cast a shadow on your persona.

On Twitter, you can review mentions on your @profile and discover tweets by others that mention you. If you can’t remove an unflattering comment or photo, you can at least prepare a response should a potential client or employer mention it.

Create a Google News alert for your name to be notified via email whenever anything newsworthy is posted about you (or someone with your same name) online.

Be discreet

“Image is everything,” as Andre Agassi coolly said in his successful ad for Canon cameras. Posting inappropriate photos and comments will come back to haunt you. Don’t post a picture that shows you quaffing a pint of ale or wearing goofy clothes, even on Halloween. Don’t post a comment that hints at bias by race, religion, gender, or age, even if it’s meant in good fun or teasing. And never take a jab at an ex-employer or boss.

Take control

One of the most important steps in repairing and protecting your online reputation is to post more positive content from and about yourself than anyone else posts about you. Remaining active online with your own website, blog, and social media and networking accounts almost guarantees that when someone searches for you by name, links to content you posted or authorized rise to the top of the search results.

Keep at it. Post fresh content regularly to remain relevant in the eyes of Internet search engines. Creating a positive online persona and an expansive professional network is not accomplished with a one-time media blast. It’s something you build over months and years of trickling content to the web and interacting in positive ways with others.

Go easy on personal and opinionated posts

Before posting anything, review it closely to make sure it promotes or at least doesn’t distract from your brand. Be particularly careful about sharing too much information, going overboard with self-disclosure, or expressing what you really think about sensitive subjects, such as politics and religion.

Share yourself

Although you need to be careful about what you post, you don’t want to be so tight-lipped that prospective employers can’t find out anything about you online or come to think that you’re not playful or creative. Hiring managers do look for a squeaky clean professional image, but they also want to get a sense of what makes you tick and your level of comfort and engagement on social media channels.

Calculated posts on your Twitter account, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, and other such sites craft a fuller picture for potential employers. You might want to post interesting news stories, or items that link to your hometown or a sports team you are passionate about. You could also consider posting pictures of yourself in unique places you have visited or foods that you enjoy.

These posts taken together can help someone understand who you are and decide whether you’re a good fit for their company culture. It also might give a hiring manager an icebreaker for interviews.

Tout your accomplishments

Bragging online is not in bad taste, if it’s properly presented. For instance, there’s a place on your LinkedIn profile to add all those sweet nuggets from professional recognitions and awards to volunteer activities and speaking engagements.

On LinkedIn, post recommendations for colleagues and other people you know. Whenever you recommend someone as having a particular skill or expertise, LinkedIn notifies the person, and that individual is likely to reciprocate.