How to protect your online rep

Source: New York Post
Date: May 1, 2011
By: Chris Erikson
Link: Online Story

How to protect your online rep

So your friend lost out on a job offer because the company checked his Facebook page and decided they could do without a sales rep who trumpets his passion for “bluntz b4 breakfast.” Let’s face it: If he hasn’t yet figured out that potential employers might eye his profile, he wasn’t really hiring material.
You, on the other hand, vetted your profile, set your Twitter feed to private and took a few other basic precautions. So you’re covered.
Or maybe not. As employers and recruiters increasing rely on the Web to scout job candidates, some are stepping up their efforts to gain insight into the person behind the resume.

“Recruiters are getting more savvy and digging a little deeper,” says Andy Beal, CEO of the reputation monitoring tool and co-author of “Radically Transparent: Monitoring and Managing Reputations Online.”
That means that while most people are “doing the basics,” such as removing offensive content from social-networking profiles, “there’s more that they need to be aware of,” says Beal.
And those things are especially key at a time when the practice of searching social networks for job candidates is booming.
“All the top recruiting firms use the Web to find passive candidates,” says Kathy Greenler Sexton, marketing head for the database ZoomInfo. And when they spy one, “They’re digging in and really trying to understand what you’re about.”
With that in mind, here’s what all job seekers — and by extension, all active professionals — need to know about managing their Web presence.

CHOOSE FRIENDS WISELY: Experts warn that hiring managers are increasingly looking past candidates’ own profiles and checking out the company they keep.

“They’re starting to look at who you associate with,” says Beal, who cites a case where a Florida police officer was investigated after a MySpace friend linked to a porn site.

And where hiring managers are concerned, you are your brother’s keeper.
“People think, ‘I don’t act like an idiot, so I’m fine,’ but that’s no longer true,” says Michael Fertik, CEO of, which helps clients manage their online reps. So if a scan of your online cohorts could give a potential employer the impression that your favored off-hours activities involve explosives, it may be triage time.

ENGAGE IN GROUP THINK: By the same token, hiring managers will look at what forums you take part in and what groups you “like,” notes Max Drucker of Social Intelligence, a screening firm specializing in social media checks.

Seem obvious? It’s not to a lot of the job seekers his firm investigates — and basic privacy settings won’t help.

“We see people who ‘like’ links that are clearly racist, or groups like Vicodin or Live Stoned. We see tons of stuff like that,” he says. “They think they’ve protected themselves, but the entire world knows they’re a fan of that group.”

DON’T EXPECT PRIVACY: Setting profiles to “private” is all well and good, but it’s as fail-safe as guarding a bank with a padlock. “Privacy settings do not work, full-stop,” declares Fertik. “That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use them, but you shouldn’t trust them.”

He cites a host of reasons, including regular data breaches and ever-changing rules about how such settings operate.
He also points to a practice about which he’s been getting anecdotal reports: job seekers who are asked to open their profiles in the middle of job interviews. And he notes that companies are known to have representatives “friend” candidates in order to get an insider’s view.

GO BEYOND GOOGLE: Many job seekers know they should run their name through Google to see what comes up. But most stop there — and they shouldn’t.

“If you’re really trying to understand your presence on the Web, you have to search everything,” says Sexton of ZoomInfo.
That means trying other search engines, such as Yahoo and Bing, she says. And it means checking data aggregators such as ZoomInfo — which typically allow you to delete material you want removed.

SEARCH SMART: Go beyond just searching for your name — because some employers will. Both Beal and Drucker recommend running a search on your e-mail address.

“People often don’t realize their addresses can tie them to sites they wouldn’t expect a prospective boss to find,” says Drucker, such as long-forgotten profiles.
Beal also suggests running your name alongside search terms such as your last employer’s name, or phrases like “took a sick day.”

KEEP YOUR GUARD UP: If you’ve landed an interview, don’t assume you’re past the vetting stage. Some firms make it a point to monitor candidates during the hiring process, says Beal, to see what they might be posting or tweeting about — like other firms they’re courting.

He cites a notorious case where a person offered a job with Cisco tweeted about how he was weighing the lure of a “fatty paycheck” against “hating the work.” A Cisco exec who saw the tweet was not amused — and the tweeter’s choice was made for him.