Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Inquiring minds want to know

Are the things Google says about you hurting your chances of finding a job? In the age of social networking, it is common for employers to search for job applicants' names online. In fact, according to a 2006 survey by ExecuNet, 77% of job recruiters google applicants. And 35% of those who research candidates online have eliminated qualified candidates based on the information they found. So, if there are pictures of you passed out drunk on your Facebook page or status updates on your Twitter profile talking about how much you despise your job, you've likely got some virtual cleaning up to do.

Who Gets Searched the Most?

Job applicants who are most likely to be the target of online research are recent college graduates because they have limited work experience and prospective employers therefore can't extract much information from former bosses and references. In addition, recent college graduates are the most active users of social media sites.

The googling of prospective employees is most common in the financial services and healthcare industries, in which having a high level of integrity is essential. Employers in the consulting and law industries also google job applicants because presenting a positive image to clients is part of the job.

Online Information That Can Get You into Trouble

Questionable status updates and risqué photos aren't the only kinds of online information that can get you in a pickle with prospective employers. Poor spelling and grammar on your social networking profiles can also hurt you because it reflects poorly on your communication skills. Evidence of having radical political views, using illegal drugs or drinking heavily can also affect your chances of landing a job.

Even having the same name as someone with a questionable background can spell doom during the job hunt. For example, if a porn star's videos come up when a prospective employer googles your name, the company may not even bother calling you to determine whether it's you or not out of embarrassment and then just scratch you off the list of candidates. That's why it's so important to google your own name and see what comes up.

How to Clean up Your Online Image

It's safe to say that nothing you post on the Internet is private. Even the things you think only your Facebook friends can see could actually be shared with others outside of your social circle unbeknownst to you. So, if you're worried about employees finding incriminating photos or information online, be cautious about what you publish and get rid of anything that sheds a negative light on you. Don't just search for your full name. Look up screen names you frequently use, as well as your email moniker because employers are becoming increasingly Internet-savvy.

If you find information or photos that you'd like to get rid of, take a cue from online reputation management pros and push them off the first page of search results. The best way to get rid of negative information about you is to remove it completely, but if that isn't possible, bury the negative results by publishing positive content that's optimized for your name. Here are some specific tips for boosting your online reputation and showing prospective employers your good side on Google:

l  Write guest articles for blogs or online trade magazines. Writing articles for blogs and online trade magazines in your industry is a great way to demonstrate your expertise while boosting your online image.

l  Set up your own website/webfolio. Register for a domain name that contains your own name (e.g., You'll have complete control over the content you publish and present to the public on your website. Plus, your site is sure to take up one of the top results when people search for your name. Better yet, add a blog to your website and publish posts that you'd like prospective employers to find. Blogs tend to rank well in the search engines, so blogging is a great way to dominate the search results for your name.

l  Sign up for social networking sites. Social networking sites rank well in the search engines, so social networking profiles help to bury any negative results that include your name. You don't have to actively use the social networking sites in order to get your profiles to rank. Just add your name, upload a photo, and fill out the basic profile information. Some popular social networking sites where you can establish a presence, if you haven't already, include YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Foursquare.

l  Set up Google Alerts for your name. Find out when your name is mentioned online by setting up Google Alerts for your name. The service is free and allows you to keep track of what people are saying about you, so you can take action if negative information about you is published.

Article by: Kathleen O'connor

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