Dear Matt: I'm worried about my online reputation. Do employers really check this stuff? How can I make sure my online reputation is in good standing, and how can I clean up anything negative?
Matt says: Yes, employers do check your online reputation. Not every company or employer does it, but it definitely happens. Think about it: If you were hiring someone, wouldn't you want to find out as much as you can about them before offering them a job? Employers spend a lot of money hiring and training new employees, so they do their due diligence.
"Hiring managers and recruiting agencies are constantly scouring the Internet for information about potential job candidates," said Cliff Stein, CEO of ReputationChanger.com, a national reputation management company that helps job seekers clean up their online image.
What are potential employers finding out about you? The best way is to search for yourself. Don't just search Google. Check out Yahoo!, Bing, MSN, AltaVista, Lycos and any other search engines. Using sites like AltaVista and Lycos might seem ancient, but that's exactly why you should check them -- there may be things out there you thought were long gone. And different results show up on different search engines.
"People with potentially harmful or embarrassing listings on the first few pages of search engine results are at a significant competitive disadvantage when it comes to obtaining that next job opportunity," said Stein. "Unfortunately for these job seekers, most of them will never even make it through the door for an interview as employers will pass them over in favor of other applicants who don't come with red flags."
It seems like a no-brainer to secure your privacy settings on your Facebook page, but many just don't do it. You also need to be cautious of photos, comments on blog posts or Twitter, personal tweets and/or articles in which you may be mentioned. Keep your LinkedIn profile updated and accurate. If negative, potentially harmful or even misleading listings appear, a company like Reputation Changer can help you through the often long process of cleaning up your online image.
Think about the consequences every time you do something online. The Internet is a great tool; it has transformed the job search and the way companies research employees. Make sure this is a positive for you -- not a negative.
"Employers want to make sure that they are hiring people they can trust, something that's more important than ever in today's highly competitive job market," said Stein.