I’m grateful to have colleagues who know about things where I do not have particular expertise. Google Alerts is one of those things! Google Alerts are valuable for job seekers and business owners alike. Here’s a great guide on how to use them!

Guest post by Susan P. Joyce

For most of us, Google has become an integral part of our lives. We use it to find the closest gas station, the best cranberry sauce recipe, the correct spelling for antidisestablishmentarianism, and hundreds of other things every day. And yet we underestimate one of Google’s most useful tools when it comes to job search: Google Alerts. Google Alerts can be extremely helpful for job seekers, and they are free!

What Are Google Alerts and How Do You Set Them Up?

Google Alerts are queries that you design, and that Google runs automatically once you set them up. You receive an email for each alert, with any new content Google has found since the last time it sent you a report. As long as you stay within Google’s 1000-alert limit, you can add, delete, or modify alerts any time you choose.

Google offers detailed advice for you on how to set up Google Alerts. Here are some easy basics:

Simply go to google.com/alerts, and type in your query and your email address.

Once you have entered your query, you can specify the source (web, news, blogs, etc.), language, and region/country. Often, the default settings are fine.

If the “Alert preview” shows you the content you want, enter your email address, click on the “Create Alert” button, and you are done. Sit back and eagerly await your reports!

Benefits of Using Google Alerts in Your Job Search

Spending the time and energy to set up Google Alerts carefully will pay off both now and in the future. If you are a job seeker, you can use Alerts to find the best new job and employer for you and keep your online visibility as positive as possible.

Google Alerts may help you with key job search activities:

  • Expanding your personal and professional networks.
  • Finding jobs and other professional opportunities.
  • Researching companies to prepare for job interviews.
  • Gathering information about your industry and/or profession.
  • Learn which employers (and people) to avoid.

Think you’d remember to run searches on all these topics every day? Think again. Instead, let Google Alerts do the work for you. The Google “early warning” will help you stay up-to-date and, hopefully, ahead of your competition.

To get the benefit of Google Alerts, of course you must actually open and read them on a daily (or at a minimum, weekly) basis. Don’t let this precious information get stale!

Google Alerts for Job Search – The Breakdown

Here’s how to use Google Alerts for some of your most important job search activities.

1. Monitor your online reputation.

The Google results associated with your name, even if it isn’t really you, will likely be seen by your network members, as well as by recruiters and potential employers. You can’t afford not to know what Google is showing when people search on your name! While some say that Googling your own name is “ego surfing” or “vanity Googling,” I prefer to call it “Defensive Googling.

So, set up Google alerts on various forms of your name, particularly the one you use most often professionally. Be on the lookout for something “bad” – trashy comments in social media, report of a drunk-driving arrest, or any unsavory or unprofessional activity. Then, do your best to distance yourself from that person and situation, including, potentially, sending out a message to recruiters you are working with or your friends in a professional group, carefully explaining that you are not that person.

If you want help with researching and managing your online reputation, you might want to check out brandyourself.com.

2. Monitor your target employers.

Hopefully, you have a list of specific employers that interest you. You know people who work there, or you are a fan of their products and services, or they are the largest employer in the area. Set up a Google Alert based on each company name.

Add additional employers as you find good candidates. Pay attention to the

  • names of senior executives
  • brand names of products and services
  • names of major business partners
  • company location

…and consider adding those names as new alerts.

Then, when you receive an alert about a person or company that is relevant or interesting, consider reaching out to someone—for instance, congratulate them on a new award or contract, or ask about the reorganization at their company.

3. Stay up-to-date with your network.

Knowing what is happening with old friends and former colleagues can help you strengthen your personal network. Even simple actions, like a short email when a connection receives recognition, becomes a parent, or has some good (or even bad) news, will make a difference. Set up Google Alerts for the favorite names in your network to learn about interesting things happening in their lives.

4. Keep current with your industry or profession.

Thinking you have nothing more to learn about your profession can be the beginning of the end for your career, while staying abreast of events and trends in your industry is essential to moving your career forward. So, use Google Alerts to monitor things like emerging technology, major employers, thought leaders, and even national conferences or local professional gatherings. Google Alerts will keep you relevant if you play your cards right!

Bottom Line

Google has provided us with a very handy tool in Google Alerts. If you’re not using it, you’re missing out on a great resource for your job search. If you’re using Google Alerts already and getting value, or if you start using them after reading this article, please share about your experience!

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a former Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan edits and publishes Job-Hunt.org and writes WorkCoachCafe.com.

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