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Cleaning Your Online Reputation Can Help ~ Especially When Applying For Jobs

Updated on October 19, 2014

Clean Up Your Online Reputation

With just a few clicks on the computer, a potential employer could find information on you that could keep you from getting that job ~Don't let this happen to you.
With just a few clicks on the computer, a potential employer could find information on you that could keep you from getting that job ~Don't let this happen to you. | Source

Create An Online Reputation That is Clean ~

If you've ever tried applying for a job and never heard back from the company, or never even got the chance for an interview, you may have wondered why that happened. Years ago, prospective employers could search for background information of prospective employees only through public data resources like court and criminal records.

The chance that they would even perform a search like that was probably small, depending on the type of job you were applying for. Today, everything has changed and it's a whole new game out there. Competition is fierce for very few available jobs. Employers have the luxury of being extremely selective. Today, prospective employers also have the Internet to help them in their search for qualified job candidates.

Even if you are applying for a job that you consider to be an entry level job, like something in retail or fast food or another similar job, you might think just because you have some blemishes on your record that it won't matter. The truth is, according to a study done by Microsoft Research, that a full 70% of recruiters who were searching for candidates online have actually taken candidates out of the running for positions because of information that came up when they searched for the candidate's name on Internet search engines.

If you think that party you went to years ago was funny, and if there were some pretty ridiculous pictures posted on Facebook that you thought at the time were "hilarious"... chances are that if a recruiter or prospective employer comes across those pictures, you may be taken out of the running for a job. And the thing is, you will probably never know that was the reason for their denial or for simply never hearing back from them when you applied for a job.

So, you might think to yourself, how can I clean up my reputation online so if, or when, a potential employer does a search of my name, only positive things will show up in the search results? The good news is that most employers or recruiters will only look at about the first three pages of any search, so there are things you can do to put your name out there in a positive light so when they do search, good things will come up associated with your name.

By taking several important steps, you can have your name show up high in the search results associated with positive organizations and with positive information. It simply takes some research and work on your part, but the effort is well worth it.

If you have never done so, "Google" your name and see what comes up, you may be in for a pleasant surprise, or a not so pleasant one... it just depends. If you are a big user of social networks such as Facebook, the information that comes up can end up being detrimental. Do you associate with people who act like 5 year old's and "tag" you in ridiculous pictures? Those pictures will probably come up for a prospective employer to see and they may think "we don't want this person working for us!"

It is a game, I know, but one that we have to play today in order to be competitive, especially during the time of a job search. There are actually companies that will do this work for you to improve your reputation. They will clean up your online reputation and see to it that your name comes up at the top of search engines in the most positive light. The problem is, these companies sometimes charge thousands of dollars for a service that, with a little bit of knowledge, you can do yourself.

The thing is to have an online reputation that you can feel proud of if a prospective employer were to type in your name in that search box. You want your reputation to reflect the person you are today, not the one that you were back in college or even high school.

Are you ready to clean up that online reputation? Here are a few tips to get started!

It Pays To Google Your Name From Time To Time ~

Delete Things That Are Questionable And Hide What You Cannot Delete~

Thoroughly look over all social networks that you have accounts on and look for posts that are questionable, incriminating or just in bad judgement. The same goes for unsavory pictures. Find them and delete them. This might take some time to do, but it will be worth it in the end. Don't forget networks like MySpace, old Twitter accounts and the biggest elephant in the room... Facebook.

When social networks have privacy controls, be vigilant about using them. Having your settings so they can only be viewed by friends is a great start. Don't go with one of the other options like having everything open to "friends of friends". By doing this, you might as well have all your information open to the entire Internet. Make sure you understand how to set controls so that the things you watch, listen to or read cannot be searched by someone searching for your name on the Internet.

You'd be surprised at how little it actually takes for a prospective employer to decide against you if you leave these things open to their search. If you read certain books, listen to certain radio shows or do anything else that they deem to be "not in the best interests of the company", you can easily be turned down. It might seem ridiculous to you that you even have to consider things like this, but in the world we live in today, you do have to be vigilant about protecting your reputation.

And here you thought high school was the only place you would ever have to worry about having a "reputation." Not any more. If friends of yours have "tagged" you in potentially incriminating photos (and we all know what those are, we've all probably laughed at drunken party photos), be sure to go through those photos and "untag" yourself. This can be done by clicking on the questionable picture, choosing "options" and choosing the option "I wish to untag myself."

Bury Any Bad Stuff You Find About Yourself

Social networks you can control, but what if there is information on the Internet about you that you have no control over? What if you were caught in a group doing something stupid back in college or high school and it made the newspaper? Even if you were not arrested for it, chances are your name could still be listed in an old newspaper article someplace.

Or, in a more common scenario, what if someone writes something negative about you and puts it out on the Internet in an effort to embarrass you or goes on a rant about you in a moment of anger? You could ask them politely to remove it, but in real life, that's not likely to happen. What you can do, however, is to put enough positive information about yourself or neutral information on the Internet that will show up higher in the search engine. This will effectively "push" the negative down beyond that third page where chances are it won't even be seen.

Use Your Name For Your Own Purposes

Using your own name, set up accounts on Google and YouTube. Also set up accounts on good Internet sites like LinkedIn so when potential employers search, these are the things that will come up. It can also help to set up accounts on photo sharing websites like Flickr and Photobucket. Be sure to only put pictures on them that are positive and appropriate.

It pays to always remember that everything you do today can potentially end up on the Internet. If you volunteer for a charity event, if you run in a charity race, if you volunteer on any types of boards like school boards, these are all things that are archived on the Internet today.

I found it interesting that the only thing I found when I "Googled" my own name was a charity event I had participated in years ago to raise money for a worthwhile cause. That's all that came up under my name. I no longer have a Facebook account, and do not have a MySpace or Twitter account either. I find that this simplifies my life a lot. There are a lot of people out there, however, who love participating on these social networking sites.

If you are one who loves to be on social networking sites, be sure to do the things suggested here to help to keep your online reputation free from scars and black marks. The important things to remember are to control the information you can control, and if you can't control it, push it as far down in search results as you can.

A Sneaky Way To Be Sure Your Name Comes Up Positively

OK, so maybe this isn't exactly "sneaky" but it is a way that I found out about recently that can help you to flood search results for your name with positive or neutral results. There is a website called that can help. Type in your name there and you will find a listing of 159 social networking websites where you can use your name to open accounts.

The results you get will show you where your name is still available to be used, meaning that it is not being used by anyone else on that site. Pick out a number of these social networking sites and set up accounts. Then, your name will come up since you now have accounts at these sites.

You do NOT want to do this if your reputation is fine when you look it up by typing your name into a search engine. These tips are simply for those who find that they have negative things that come up when they search for their name.

Another helpful "trick" you can use is if you have a common name like Jon Smith, you can use another form of your name when you apply for jobs. Use the more formal "Jonathan Smith" instead if that will help to keep someone from finding negative information about you in a search.

Another thing to remember is that there will most likely be other people who share your name. I found people all over the country with the same name as mine. Fortunately, the only things that came up in a search about those people with the same name were things like LinkedIn profiles and other professional websites. The thing is to look for listings that DO pertain to you personally and do what you can about seeing that they are positive.

Cleaning up your online reputation is a great way to help you next time you need to search for a job. It is also nice to have peace of mind in the knowledge that when you "Google" your name, only good or neutral things are coming up in the search. It is smart to check from time to time just to be sure nothing negative has found its way onto your search.

To Update...

To update this, I do have Facebook accounts now. One I use only for professional purposes, for my freelance writing. I use that one to share links to items I have written. The other one is personal, but I followed the advice I gave here when I went back to using that account.

I have my personal Facebook set up so only friends can see almost everything that I post. I find this to be the best solution to wanting to keep in communication with friends through Facebook, and still keeping your online reputation positive.


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    • KathyH profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Waukesha, Wisconsin

      Thanks, Hawaiian! :) I really appreciate your support. My hope is that this will help some people out there in their job search. I know it can be tough to find a job these days. Thanks so much for your comment! : )

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 

      6 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      Thank you, Kathy, for the amount of research you conducted and for the fine presentation of this very significant issue. Very interesting and compelling subject! Good to know that there are actually strategies one can employ to balance the scales.

    • KathyH profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Waukesha, Wisconsin

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Nell! :) Good idea to use a writing name, that's what I do, too. :)

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      6 years ago from England

      Great idea kathy, I am lucky though I only use my writing name on the internet, even for facebook, so others know its me. any photos that are slightly emabarrassing? No! lol!

    • KathyH profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Waukesha, Wisconsin

      You are so right, Sarah! If you don't pose to begin with, there won't be embarrassing photos. It seems as if everything goes on the Internet these days! Thanks so much for reading and commenting, I appreciate it!

    • sarahshuihan profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      These are all great suggestions - I don't think people realize these days that employers use these methods to weed out potential employees. I think the best way to prevent any embarrassing photos is to not pose for the min the first place!


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