Raising The Stakes In Your Next Career Move

29 October 2007 Andrew Jordan

Andrew Jordan of Reputica Ltd discusses how being web-aware can affect your chances of scoring that next job.

In today's world of online job searching sites it is more likely that your next board position will not be posted anywhere, with The Sunday Times being perhaps the most obvious exception

Senior positions are the realm of that nebulous and often misunderstood world of 'Search and Select'. Those in the search business rely on deep-rooted networks of senior contacts to recommend, coerce and hopefully poach their candidate from their current position, often for substantial fees.

There are a number of criteria on which they base their judgement as to whether they have the right candidate. A major factor is familiarity of the market, of the movers and shakers in that industry and of people who can reach likely candidates. Reputation, or at least public perception of the candidate's successes, becomes very relevant. This will be backed up by an appropriately worded CV, interviews and possible background checks.

Traditional background checks for very senior appointments tend not to look very deeply, largely because the candidate is almost certainly well known in his sphere of business already. But we now live in a world where data proliferates online at an unprecedented rate and social commentary about everyone and everything is becoming commonplace.


Search firms are now turning increasingly to the online world as a valuable source of information to add 'colour' to a prospective candidate’s background, with this interrogation of data, especially across social media, providing dimensions to an applicant’s character that previously would have been unseen.

Data may reveal how staff regarded them, competence as a public speaker and leadership skills. Someone may even use today’s blogsphere to reveal other, more revealing information. Such issues may be addressed and search firms find this very interesting.

But this should not be interpreted as the portent of doom, nor should the budding chief executive fear this data backdrop. It is simply a reflection of the world we live in today; a world where people's willingness to capture their thoughts, beliefs and frustrations are ever-more frequent. We have truly opened Pandora's Box in allowing everyman to express their views online so now we should simply engage in that environment, understand it and use it to our advantage where possible.

"Social commentary about everyone and everything is becoming commonplace."

So what should a proactive CEO do? To quote an old cliché, be prepared: know what people are saying about you and know which of them matter. Whether you set up a few simple Google Alerts, or engage an external reputation monitoring service for your business, you need to have an early warning system that allows you to be the first to know when a potentially damaging story comes out. If needed, the usual PR and corporate governance processes can kick in to represent your side. Make sure you are transparent and responsive.


But before one of these stories emerge, make sure you know which are the influential writers and which can be quietly ignored – be they traditional journalists or bloggers. Carry out an audit of all the traditional and online media in your industry, keeping a list of the top ten or 20 most influential. If one of them mentions you or your company, pay attention and respond if appropriate. But remember that your top 20 may change each week.

For the more web-savvy, you can respond via a corporate or CEO blog. however this is not for everyone. Some people are not natural writers and others run the risk of their blogs looking too edited or sanitised and therefore not the natural views of the writer.

Whichever method of communication you are most comfortable with, engaging your customers and employees early on is the best way to avoid an avalanche of criticism - and potentially losing that great job.