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Your virtual identity: Be anonymous at your own risk

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There's a lot written about how you have to be so careful about what you post online because it might hurt you with your current employer or in the job-search process.

You can also be too careful. You might chose to have no online identity at all, to be virtually invisible. But being anonymous online can actually hurt you more than it can help you.

I've hired 10 people in the past few years and interviewed at least 50 candidates in the process. Before the interviews, I always Googled the candidates just to see what I can learn about him or her beyond the résumé.

Most of the time, you can find a LinkedIn profile and other miscellaneous items. I've honestly never found anything that would automatically disqualify a candidate. Most of the time it actually helped. It gave me a more complete picture of what the person was like before he or she walked in the door.

Some candidates have written blogs or articles. Others are active on Twitter. Some have 20 or more glowing recommendations on LinkedIn. Others have done webinars that I can actually watch. All of these things give me a much richer view of the candidate.

You can actually see how the candidate thinks, how well they can process information and solve problems, and how passionate they are about what they do. You can also get a sense of their personality and determine if they would be a good fit for the company. There's only so much you can get out of a one-page résumé and a 60-minute interview. The Internet can help you fill in the gaps.

I also find that savvy candidates often will Google me before the interview. One candidate learned that I'm a huge Bruce Springsteen fan from my LinkedIn profile and brought it up early in the interview. It really helped build rapport during our conversation. We ended up hiring him. Now I won't say that Bruce got him the job. But it didn't hurt.

Assume you're up for a job and competing with several candidates who have a more robust online presence. As a hiring manager, I want to get as much information about the candidates as possible to make an informed decision and minimize the risk of making a bad hire. If you're not providing as much information as your competition, you could be hurting your chances of getting the job.

Personally, I find it a bit strange when you can't find anything about a candidate online. It kind of raises a red flag and makes you ask, what is this person trying to hide? Fair or unfair, that's the world we live in.

So, for those out there who have an anonymous virtual identity, it's time to change your thinking. In today's world, being invisible is not an option. Because it's actually what you're not putting online that can hurt you.

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