YOUR online reputation and profile is something you need to track vigilantly as it has the capacity to reach far and wide within and outside your organisation.

Headhunters rely on information regarding a candidate’s reputation and they often do extensive background research in order to substantiate their findings.

Says Ms Bernadette Themas, consulting director of BTI Consultants: “These days, we also review a shortlisted candidate’s profile in sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networking sites in addition to other background information we seek.”

Many senior executives are still not clued in to this medium and underestimate the power of this channel — information on the Internet moves faster and reaches a much larger audience.

Here are some aspects of your online reputation that you need to be aware of:

What search engines pick up

Google yourself regularly. Run searches on yourself as this will give you an opportunity to see what news about you is being tracked. Even if you cannot change it, you can prepare yourself for questions that may be asked.

Watch what you say

Monitor what you say, as it can come back to “bite” you. If you are making any comments online, make sure that it enhances your profile. Join groups and discussion threads that can add to your profile. The net community also shows up your personality and interests. Choose where you want to be seen and whom you want to be seen with.

Enhance your online identity by updating your profile to add your accomplishments and your expertise. In this way you come up in searches on areas that you want to be known for.

Join online communities

Not only can you become a part of different communities that support your career aspirations and interests, you can also have followers. Sites like Twitter do exactly that, and by choosing to follow someone prominent, you can boost your follower profile.

People also discuss what you do and how you do it online in their own blogs, chat rooms and social networking sites, so it pays to think about the repercussions of your action before doing something and its impact on you and your organisation.

Track what others say

Headhunters pick up information on what others say about you. Sites like LinkedIn include recommendations to share what others think about you and their experience of you. It is easy to pick out the ones that have been “staged” versus the ones that are genuine.

Also take note of what your children are saying about you on their Facebook profiles and the pictures they are putting up of you. Every time you update your profile or your pictures, messages go out to your community to let them know that you have made some updates.

Review the photos that you get tagged to. There is no privacy these days and if you are out with friends partying, these photos sometimes can make their way into someone’s Facebook profile. You can of course ask them to untag it but this can only happen if you are constantly monitoring your profile.

Social networking sites have an impact on your reputation. Create a positive online presence as these sites are being trawled by headhunters and prospective employers.

Stay connected

You never know who is in touch with whom and it is quite amazing to see the web of relationships online. A quiet person at work may have a contact base of over 500 people online. Some of these people may include ex-employees who work with competitors. Information is no longer exclusive and the chances of it getting leaked out are very high.

Stay connected instead of shutting this medium out. In this way, you can at least keep track on what is going on out there. There are online tools that help you track your reputation and build your personal brand online.

Many senior executives are not active in managing their online profile after adding the cursory data. Some even view it as something they need to avoid as it invades their privacy.

It is not possible to shut this channel out anymore. Embrace it and make it work for you.

Remember that active users of the Internet are people who demand transparency and congruence in what people say and do.

Your online identity is not separate from your identity offline — the divide between the two are merging and your online identity should be seen as an extension of you.