Managing Your Online Identity

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Have you ever wondered why you can’t seem to snag an interview with that elusive dream job? How do you come across on the Web? A recent survey found that most employers now use social media sites to vet candidates. Your online image may be keeping you from getting that invite. You want to catch people’s attention because you are the best person for the job, not because of that really rash comment or photo posted at the end of a bad night.

Fortunately, it is not 1999 when information was fragmented and search engines were proliferating. These days, there are less than a handful of major search engines that you need to monitor: Google, Yahoo and Bing.

On the other hand, there are far more social media sites, and it is startling how many open the curtain on phases of your life that are nobody’s business. Are wedding snaps of your first marriage still floating around? It is a possibility if you created a photo album with an online service. Daffy photos of you could still pop up because of a long gone social media site, such as Friendster. How about the gardening site that allowed pictures of your backyard to be shared across the Internet? Did you sign up for that? Well, yes, you did, but maybe not intentionally.

You need to get busy. First, find out what is “googleable.” If your tweets are public, they will show up on Google. You may have to make a choice between privacy and fun. If you make your Tweets private, no one can re-tweet you, which sort of defeats the purpose of Twitter. But some of those re-tweets may not be suitable for everyone. People have been suspended and even fired over offensive Tweets. One solution: Tweet under a pseudonym, or don’t Tweet at all.

Pseudonyms are not an option on Google+ or Facebook, although Facebook allows you opt out of being googleable. So does Tumblr and sites such as Quora. Just remember that if someone else uses your name in an answer or a blog post, your name may show up in search engines. You might want to omit your last name in public profiles.

In any case, check each social media site to tweak your public profile options. And on Facebook, make sure to adjust the privacy settings so that you can review any tag of you. Be forewarned that not all search engines respect such blocks.

Also, rethink Facebook. Exaggerating your accomplishments to irritate a "frenemy" is not something you want a recruiter to find. It is easier than ever to confirm a person’s curriculum vitae.

The best defense is a good offense. Don’t post random comments or photos in the first place. It is not easy to erase your Web footprints. Even comments on someone else’s Google+ appear in your results, as do the photos in other people’s Picasa accounts.

Bottom line: try every different search engine and social media site to see what shows up. Don’t forget Vimeo and YouTube. If the results are ugly, you can try to contact a Web site's administrator to see if they can remove those old wedding photos even though you signed a release when you were not thinking.

If all else fails, try, which claims to get offending material to fall way down on the Google search results. The ever evolving Internet makes it crucial to stay on top of what prospective employers can find out about you in just a click. Recruiters are people and, right or wrong, people judge you by the company you are keeping on the Web.

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