You have an online reputation. You might not know what it is, your friends and family might not know what it is, but it is there. Granted, it is reasonable to conclude that some people (remember, “some” just means “at least one”) interested in applying to b-school do not have nor have ever had a social media or social networking account. Perhaps there’s at least someone out there that has never been ‘tagged’ in anything, never written anything, or been written about in anything published online.
Guess what. That is a reputation.
As we march relentlessly into the future… Wait a minute. Aren’t we already in the future? Whatever the case, the way in which we are perceived online can matter, and for MBA aspirants that perception matters more and more. While most schools have not yet spelled out official policies and procedures for screening online reputations, according to a recent Forbes piece, that certainly does not mean these institutions are refraining from such screening.
Today, you are hard-pressed to find a b-school that does not have a Facebook profile, Twitter feed, or LinkedIn network. In fact, it is not uncommon for business school recruiters to reach out to applicants via social media, or vice versa, and the trend only shows signs of continuing. In fact, a $2 billion acquisition implies that someday soon you might be virtually touring targeted b-schools and shaking electronic hands with admissions officials. The question is, then, in what way does your online presence affect you?
In the previously linked Forbes post, a b-school admissions consultant offers up five tips for appropriately scrubbing your virtual self. Each is reasonable, of not obvious, and following tip #1 – Do a personal online audit – is definitely prudent.
Yet, the author of a response piece in The Economist posits that an applicant pool shrouded in fastidiously buffed electronic masks risks watering down the candidates universities have to choose from and, thus, diluting the quality of accepted MBA cohorts. Perhaps, it is argued, interesting folks who would add value to a b-school class might self-select out of the pool. Even if such opting out does not occur, scrubbed internet profiles – as they are designed to do – will definitely limit the amount of information schools have to evaluate applicants and this might be to the detriment of both schools and students.
Online reputation management is big business and it would be hard to argue that it is not a growth industry. Companies abound to help clients ensure a strong and search engine optimized online brand (here is a top 10 review of such companies). Whether grad school applicants might find it necessary to use such a service is certainly a personal decision, but making the choice to do so is likely to become more common. As to whether this trend will prove positive or negative with respect to b-school applicants and those accepted is unknown, and the impact will likely remain a mystery. Either way, this new and inescapable facet of your reputation demands your consideration.
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