Your e-reputation: what can potential employers discover about you?

Posted on: 30 November 2012
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Filed under: digital literacy

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

Warren Buffett,  American businessman

In the online world, the process of reputation building has arguably become quicker, as has the time it takes to ruin it.  Think of those tweets people fast regret but even a few seconds after posting it is often too late to retract, due to retweets and favourites.

At a conference last year, I took part in a digital identity workshop, which highlighted the dangers of putting too much, or too little, out in the public domain.  I use a variety of social media tools, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, Blogger, Mendeley and YouTube, and in this post I am going to find out what anyone with internet access can find out about me. To help me with this, I am following a worksheet for an e-reputation course run by Swansea University.


My privacy settings are pretty tight on Facebook and I’ve disabled public search.  I had a quick look at to see if I could find any embarrassing Facebook stories relating to the University of Westminster but I’m happy to report there were none!


Simply by typing in my name (in inverted commas), location and job, I get a list of my social network sites, as well as information about things I’ve been involved with professionally e.g. the first London Librarian TeachMeet and my Erasmus trip to Lund University.  Hopefully these would go in my favour if a potential employer googled me.

I repeated the search in Google Images, but all that appeared were the photos I have on my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, as well as ones I’ve used in my blog.


I use the same Twitter account for professional and personal tweets, so in theory anyone can find out that I have a bit of an obsession with Ancient Egypt.  Hopefully, this wouldn’t harm my professional reputation though.

Looking up my Twitter username on TweetReach, I discovered that tweets relating to my username have potentially reached 5,837 accounts in just 6 days, far more than are actually following me.  I was slightly unsure about this result, so I tried searching for the hashtag #infolit (for tweets relating to information literacy).  I just 4 days, nearly 12,000 accounts had been reached, with an account I tweet for (@infolitgroup) in the top five impressions.


So, I’ve found out what information is available about me in the public sphere and I haven’t come across anything damaging.  In fact, some of it could be quite useful in building my professional reputation.  It’s worth bearing in mind that if you are invisible on the web, this could also have negative consequences for your employability (unless you’re planning to be the next James Bond!).  For a start, by not engaging with social media, how do you know what others are saying about you?  Also, Twitter in particular offers a great professional networking platform, to the extent that some people are just as well known by their online username than their real life one (Llord Llama being a prime example).  This is demonstrated by the trend to include your Twitter username on conference badges, so that people who know you better by that name can identify you (as well as encouraging new followers, of course).  Phil Bradley discussed the dangers of not having an online presence in a recent blog posting:

“A potential new employer, if they have any brains at all are going to be looking at your social media footprint as much as anything in your CV. If you were going to employ someone, and two people had equally good CVs, which would you go for – the one with hundreds or thousands of Twitter followers or the one who didn’t have a Twitter account? The one with lots of contacts on LinkedIn, or the one with none?”


As part of this project, we are planning to offer sessions on the topic of managing your online identity, as this is a key link between digital literacy and employability.

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