Earlier this week, I heard about an acquaintance who had misrepresented himself on LinkedIn. He changed his profile to only show partial information about his work history. Plus, he added a company profile for his new consulting business and grossly lied about his 2009 revenue and the number of employees he had. All those changes were made because he desperately wants to find consulting clients to make money while looking for his next job and wanted to look established and successful.
But a simple Google search reveals that he’s lying on LinkedIn. His own website proves that his LinkedIn profile is false!
Shocked by this discovery, I decided to probe a little deeper and find what else Google could tell me about him. And I struck gold. On the first page of Google blog search for his name, a blog comment appeared. Not just any comment either; he’d written on a marriage counseling post saying that while he was still thin, his wife had gained a lot of weight and it has ruined their physical relationship. And, just in case a casual Google searcher might be tempted to dismiss the comment as written by someone else with the same name, he’d helpfully included the same professional photograph he uses on his website.
Did I mention that the marriage counseling blog is syndicated by another blog… and thus this person’s TMI comment appeared twice on the first page of Google blog search results?
Caught red handed
Learning all this took me about two minutes–and I didn’t even have to compare his LinkedIn profile to his website. Someone else had noticed the discrepancy in their weekly LinkedIn network update email (easy to notice because it was glaringly obvious) and told others about it. Once I heard about it, I compared the info in about 1 minute, and then dashed over to Google.
Luckily, I’m not in a position where I would be hiring this person… so it wasn’t the end of the world for me to find out this information. But, this is how it affected my perception of his personal brand. Even though he’s portrayed himself as someone who understands using the Internet to achieve business goals, he doesn’t demonstrate an understanding of how easy the web makes it for people to verify information and learn about others. He also obviously doesn’t understand that what he writes on the Internet can embarrass people. (How embarrassing for his wife if she stumbles across his comment about her! How much worse if someone else tells her about it!)
If I were looking to hire this person, and found all this out, I would definitely be taken aback. I would wonder if he’d told me things that weren’t true when we were interviewing, and I’d worry that he’d post sensitive information about my customers online. No matter how much value he could bring to my company, I would view him as a risk and think twice about hiring him.
Tough lessons learned
There are basically four lessons I derived from this personal branding fiasco:
- Don’t lie online. It’s way too easy to find out the truth.
- If you are dumb enough to lie, don’t be so dumb that your own website shows that you’re lying.
- Don’t share uncomfortable personal information about yourself or family members online.
- If you’re dumb enough to share uncomfortable personal information online, don’t be dumb enough to use your full name and professional picture.
When you’re branding yourself online, or even just interacting online, you’re broadcasting information to the world. Everything you do and say can be accessed, and will become part of how your future employers view you. Remember that at all times.
Don’t be the next cautionary tale. I don’t want to be writing about you.
Katie Konrath writes about creativity, innovation and “ideas so fresh… they should be slapped!” at www.getFreshMinds.com.