Archive for the ‘Online Privacy’ Category

What can potential employers find out about you on the Internet?

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

Q: What’s the first thing you do when you want to know more about somebody?

A: You search for their name on Google.

What happens when you search for your own name?

Do you like what you find? If you’re like a lot of younger people today who are entering the job market, you may have some embarrassing things out there that you probably regret.

Whether it be a risque photo on Facebook or a post from years ago on some forum from your younger days, the Internet does not forget.

What can you do?

Find everything that’s out there. Inventory all the locations on the Internet that could conceivably be linked to you. This means searching for your name and email address on the major search engines (Google, Yahoo, and MSN). A lot of times you will find things on one search engine that the other two don’t have.

Don’t forget to search for several variations of your personal information:

  • Search for your full name: First Middle Last
  • Search for your first and last names: First Last
  • If you have an uncommon last name, search for it by itself: Last

If you get back a lot of results (100+) and they’re not all about you, then you need to refine your search. Repeat the above searches but put quotation marks around them. This will restrict the search to sites where your information has appeared in that exact order.

Here are some other searches you should do:

  • Email address
  • Telephone number
  • Any monikers that are linked to your name. E.g. if your email address has a unique word or phrase in it that you also use to post on forums, search for this as well.

This is probably as far as most employers will go. However, these days it is important that you also look on the major social networking sites; search on Facebook and MySpace, if nowhere else. Even if you don’t have a profile on these sites, it’s important to find out if anybody else has written anything about you.

Cancel or make your social networking profiles private. Unless you set up your profile specifically for the purpose of job hunting, you really don’t want to expose too much of your personal life to potential employers.

Now what?

That depends on what your searches turned up. If your searches returned nothing, then you’re in the minority. Most people in their teens and twenties will have results from their school or college websites at the very least. These won’t hurt you, and they can in fact help you if the information is positive. Honor roll or extracurricular news on your school’s website is what you want to show up when employers look up your name.

If your searches came back full of things you’d rather forget, then you have some work to do in getting it removed.

  • If your friends have a lot of photos of you on their social networking profiles, you should ask them to remove the risque ones immediately. Also ask them to remove any other information from their profiles that you would rather keep personal.
  • If your name graced the headlines in a police blotter on a newspaper website, that’s not the first thing you want employers to discover about you. If such an incident occurred a long time ago but is still in on the newspaper website, you’ve got some work to do. Some newspapers discard old news stories after a certain period of time, meaning your brush with the law (if trivial) will probably disappear after some time. Unfortunately a lot of newspapers are beginning to archive everything they ever printed. If this is the case then you have a couple options:
  1. Call them up and politely ask them to remove the article or police blotter entry. If you really are innocent and didn’t do anything wrong, you can truthfully explain to the newspaper that you were found innocent and that it is harming your reputation.
  2. If you were found not so innocent, and they refuse to take your name off of their website, then you’ll have to get creative. One way is to put your name out on the Internet in a lot of positive places. Start a blog about your industry and post some clean and helpful material on forums and others’ blogs on subjects you are interested in. The more positive things you have contributed, the better, because not only will it give employers the “other side of the story” about you, it may even prevent them from finding that negative stuff. If the negative mentions of you get pushed to the second or third page of the search results, you’re probably home free.

Regardless of what you searches turn up, putting your resume on the Internet is a good idea. Not only can it crowd out some of the potentially negative things out there, it gives employers an up to date version of your resume. It’s also a lot easier to distribute than a traditional paper resume! Get started now by registering for our online resume service. Doing so will give you a simple address (e.g. example.myresume.org) and you can make changes at any time.