According to ExecuNet, over one-third of employers have eliminated a candidate because of "digital dirt"—information about you online that is either unflattering or inconsistent with the image you would like to portray.
Digital dirt could be preventing you from getting interviews and ultimately landing your ideal job. So if you have digital dirt, it's time to clean up your act. Here's the three-step process:
1. Google yourself
According to a Business Week study, only one-third of people surveyed ever actually egosurfed (conducted an Internet search on themselves). If you are seeking a job now, you need to know what's out there. So, google yourself in the format "firstname lastname," with the quotation marks.
Remember to google different versions of your name. For example, if your name is Steven Robinson, you will want to google "Steve Robinson and "Steven Robinson." Look at the results on the first three pages and ask yourself whether there is anything that could work against you in your job search. Is there information that dilutes your message? Make note of the items you feel are muddying up your professional image.
"Until you're aware of everything that's connected to your name online, it's impossible to try to overcome any potential employer objections," according to Dave Opton, ExecuNet CEO and founder.
2. Vacuum it up
The best way to eliminate the dirt is to Hoover it up. Of course, to do this, you have to have control over the content. If your dirt includes writing, photos, and other content that you posted on your own site, blog, or social-networking web site, you can remove it or change it to ensure that it communicates your value as a candidate.
Before you embark on this, think about how you want to come across to hiring managers and executive recruiters. You want to ensure that you communicate an authentic, consistent, and compelling message. When hiring managers or recruiters google you, they are looking for facts to back up what they see on your resume. Think of googling as the web 2.0 version of a reference check.
You can also go to sites that have posted things about you and respectfully ask them to remove them. Sometimes they will, sometimes they won't. When they won't, move on to step No. 3.
3. Sweep it under the rug
In this step, you will work to "hide" the dirt you can't vacuum up. To do this, you need to post highly relevant content that will show up before the dirt in a search.
This means creating a large volume of content that includes your name and expresses your unique promise of value—your personal brand. If you don't have a blog or Web site, you might want to create one.
When someone searches on your name, if it is the same as the domain name of your Web site or blog, it's likely to show up in the top position on Google. For example, if your name is Susanna Hofman, http://blog.susannahofman.com will likely show up in the top spot when someone searches on your name.
Sweeping the dirt under the rug will not eliminate it, but it will make it harder to find. Since the dirt has not disappeared, you may still need to address it during an interview, so be prepared to discuss it.
Even if you get the job, you can count on being googled by your new colleagues and employees, so make sure you know what they know by googling yourself regularly.
Note: This article was adapted from Career Distinction: Build Your Brand to Stand Out.
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