ALC Consulting

May 11, 2009

Clean Up Your Room, Part II

Today’s post is by a guest, Patrice Sevrin from Momentum Management Resources, Inc. It echoes what I posted earlier. I have added a few graphics here.

Job seekers, beware! That MySpace photo of you doing a keg stand may get a few chuckles from friends, but it’s no laughing matter in the job market.

Employers are increasingly scouring the Internet for “digital dirt” to help them weed through job candidates. In fact, 83.2 percent of recruiters acknowledged to using online search engines in 2007 to uncover information about candidates, according to ExecuNet, an online referral network for executives and recruiters. Of these recruiters, 43 percent acknowledged eliminating candidates based on the negative information they found.

Everything from racy Facebook profiles to scathing posts on community message boards to public arrest records are to blame for why perfectly qualified candidates often miss out on great job opportunities. Ellen Sautter and Diane Crompton, authors of “Seven Days to Online Networking”
(JIST), add that digital dirt doesn’t even have to be disastrous to knock candidates out of the running for a job.

“Digital dirt comes in all shapes and sizes. For example, the Internet might reveal that you’re a member of a controversial association or that you’re part of a moonlighting business that could be a conflict of interest with, or distraction from, your primary work. It can simply be something that is irrelevant to your professional reputation and distracts people from the real message you want to get across about who you are and what you have to offer,” Sautter and Crompton state.

Many job seekers think they’re squeaky clean in cyber space, only to discover that someone with the same name is soiling their reputation with recruiters. Sharing a common name with people who work in the same field or live in a similar area can be extremely problematic for job seekers if negative information is lurking online.

In their book, Sautter and Crompton offer the following four strategies to clean up digital dirt.

Wash over it
Create so much new online content about yourself that the negative or irrelevant information is buried under fresher, more relevant and more positive content. This method is useful when you’re dealing with content that relates to someone else who shares your name. The more positive, relevant content you can create that is truly yours, the more you’ll stand out from the pack of Jane Smiths and John Does.

Wash it out
Get rid of it entirely. Having online content deleted is not easy. Unless someone you know well created or posted the content in the first place, you might have a difficult time getting the owners of the site to remove the offending content.

Wait it out
Take no active measures to hide or delete the content, but just let nature take its course. Nature, in this case, is the natural sequence of events in most reasonably active, visible professionals’ lives. This approach is recommended only if you write, speak or blog often.

Call in the pros
Now you can employ the services — for a fee, of course — of businesses that will keep an eye on your online reputation and help you keep it clean. One of the pioneers in this field, ReputationDefender, goes on a search-and-destroy mission. This organization scours the Internet to dig up every bit of information on you and then sets out to destroy (at your request) any negative information by getting it corrected or removed, whenever possible.

Sautter and Crompton encourage people — whether they’re job searching or not — to remember that everything they do online leaves a digital footprint. It’s up to each individual to determine whether those footprints take a step in the right — or wrong — direction in cyberspace.


1 Comment »

  1. One look at my name tells you my problem – there’s just too many of “me” out there. I’ve Googled myself and can’t find the real me; there are at least a dozen people with the same or similar name in the greater Portland area who show up on the list. Some of them I wouldn’t mind being, but a couple of them are embarrassing. If you don’t limit the search to the Portland area, it gets even worse – the Galloping Gourmet is referenced everywhere!

    Is this a good thing or a bad thing? With so many of “me” showing up on a search, will a potential employer give me the benefit of the doubt or assume one of the embarrassing versions just might be me?

    Comment by Jeff Smith — June 12, 2009 @ 5:25 pm | Reply

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