Is Your Online Reputation Harming You? 3 Quick Fixes

It's easier than ever for potential employers to quickly uncover bits of your past that you may wish they wouldn't. And more employers are Googling, checking Facebook or otherwise searching online for information about job candidates. That's why employment and security experts suggest that job seekers clean up their online, or virtual, personas.

"Upwards of 80 percent of employers are looking on the Internet for information about applicants," says Michael Fertik, founder of, an online-reputation management site. "And they're also making decisions based on information they find."

Fertik tells AOL Jobs that companies aren't just looking for information about applicants, but also want to know about their friends and interests.

That can be particularly problematic for people with common names. Searching for, say, James White can reveal many different people, and employers don't always do a good job of sorting through them.

Further, employers aren't always careful to discriminate among content that's been posted by job candidates and that which has been posted by friends, which may inaccurately reflect applicants' employment or personal histories.

To help minimize any damage, Fertik advises -- especially younger job-seekers -- to keep in mind that the words and images that they post on Facebook may not accurately reflect who they will be in five years. Managing your Internet and social-media presence is akin to getting a tattoo, he says. What may seem like a good idea today may seem like the most wrongheaded decision several years from now.

But before you go ripping down everything you've ever posted on your Facebook page, the Society for Human Resource Management notes that research shows that employers are actually much more cautious about digging into applicants' backgrounds than some studies suggest.

There is a difference between using social media to recruit or identify job candidates and to screen candidates, SHRM says. That's important to note because although the means by which we share information electronically is fairly new, laws for making hiring decisions aren't.

For the vast majority of positions, the trade organization says, an employer seeks only information related to an applicant's ability to do the job. SHRM's own survey shows that 67 percent of employers have never used and don't plan to use social networking websites as screening tools.

Still, for those who err on the side of caution,'s Fertik offers these tips, featured recently in a blog post at the Harvard Business Review:

  1. Get a new url. On social media sites, such as LinkedIn and Facebook, try to get a URL that's as close as possible to your name. Using "James White" as an example, the ideal URL for a LinkedIn page would be: Doing so will help push those results to the top of a Google search. And since many recruiters only look at the first five or 10 search results, you can effectively manage the links that potential employers see.

  2. Correct your profile. Make sure your online persona matches your offline persona. If your passion and education are in environmental engineering, make sure that your social media profiles reflect those facts.

  3. Establish your expertise online. Use chat rooms, online forums and social media to establish your credibility on the professional topics that matter most to the job search you are actively (or passively) pursuing.

For the complete list of tips, check out Fertik's article at the Harvard Business Review.

How to Protect Your Online Reputation

Don't Miss: Companies Hiring Now

Looking for a job? Click here to get started.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:
victoria smith

this is really good because sometimes became famous is also make you harm and people make dummy account your name and cheat anyone who not know you.. so this article is one steps to make you awake about your online reputation.. thanx for your suggestion..

November 15 2013 at 11:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Online reputation is so important because it is a huge broadcast system that anyone can look up. There are lots of tips you can use to protect both your personal reputation online and your brand. It all begins with monitoring, and you can do that for free with Google Alerts. If you find yourself the victim of an online smear campaign, which seems to be happening a lot more, do not panic, because there are professionals who can help,like

May 13 2012 at 11:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Alma Dewberry

Really it's important to protect your image online as there are tons of sites for us to put on bios. I worked with one of the bigger reputation comapnies and they were junk. What they did could have been done by a 7 year old. After working with a company like Profile Defenders I found that there are some more intricate secrets and tricks to reputation management that the average browser can't do and I think that is something you missed in this article David Schepp.

April 17 2012 at 10:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If you spend enough time online,to worry about your reputation,then thats really really really sad..

April 16 2012 at 10:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

First of all i don't believe employers digging into a prospective candidates personal life to make a decision about their ability to perform a job is ethical but unfortunatly we all have to play the game. If your a twenty-something to thirty-something and you tell your employer you don't have an online presence they will lable you a liar, i've seen it happen so working under an alias isn't foolproof. I've found that upfront offering a LinkedIn or a facebook URL specifically constructed for professional purpouses in your cover letter is a good way to prevent them from digging further, they're busy people, if you've done the work for them they may appreciate it. You'll still get the occasional recruiter who's drama obsessed and won't stop digging until they know what age you stopped wetting the bed but you've got a better bet that all they'll come up with is what you gave them already

April 16 2012 at 11:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"The fear of man bringeth a snare, but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord, shall be safe."

-God's Word.

April 16 2012 at 3:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

No wonder they don't know how to hire anyone, looking at Facebook? That should have zero to do with hiring. It proves what dummies are really out there in HR today.

April 15 2012 at 11:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Facebook buys a 13 employee firm Instagram for a Billion dollars, that's amazing, read more

April 15 2012 at 10:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Or better yet - use a nickname so employers can't find you. My personal life is NONE of my employer's business. None!

April 15 2012 at 10:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
SEO Mike

Chat rooms? Really? Okay, if this were 1996 and the AOL platform was the only option. That is an old term from a by-gone era. What we are talking about here is how people can affect their own search rankings, aka performing their own SEO. In that case, a blog would be the best bet for getting expertise into the google rankings. Wordpress is on of the best blogging platforms and it's free. Better yet, register your full name as the URL for your blog. Network Solution is a good service for this, many pros dislike Go Daddy.

April 14 2012 at 1:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Search Articles

Picks From the Web