Post by Kim Komando with USA Today's CyberSpeak:
As millions seek new jobs to replace positions lost in the recession, keep in mind that the Internet gives employers unprecedented access to information about you.
Employers aren't content with facts gleaned from public records. They're also using the Internet to assess your character. That means they're searching your name on Google.
They're visiting social-networking sites and reading blog posts. Unflattering comments and photos can put you out of the running for a job. So, you will want to clean up your online reputation before job hunting. For direct links to the sites mentioned, go to www.komando.com/news.
Search for yourself
Your first step is to assess your online reputation. Start by doing a Google search of your name and its variations.
Do other searches that include your profession, previous employers and locations. You may be surprised what turns up.
You should also search networking sites. Pipl, Wink and PeekYou will allow you to search multiple sites quickly.
You will want to make two lists from your searches. On one list, place links to sites with unflattering information. On the other list, place links to flattering information.
Remove the negative
Maybe you posted some of the unflattering images or comments. In that case, remove them immediately. Err on the side of caution and remove anything that is potentially offensive.
Next, contact the owners of sites that cast you in a negative light. Send a polite e-mail message requesting that negative information be removed.
State your case clearly. If a post is erroneous, provide proof of its inaccuracy. It doesn't hurt to mention that you're job searching.
Things are more complicated with unflattering photos and truthful information. You will need to appeal to the writer's sense of decency. Keep your requests pleasant and polite, and you may be successful.
Promote the positive
Some sites will honor your requests. Other sites may not. So, you may need to mitigate negative posts with positive ones.
I recommend that you start a blog highlighting your professional skills. Write posts on your field to show off your professional knowledge. List your full name at the bottom of your posts. Include links to the positive comments you found. And be sure to list your accomplishments in your bio.
These postings should push the negative postings from Google's top search results. You can also use your blog to speak indirectly to potential employers.
For example, say you share a name with a porn star. You don't want potential employers to confuse the two of you. So, create a post listing people who share your name. It's a good way to eliminate confusion.
Don't forget networking sites
Networking sites like Facebook and MySpace are the biggest threat to your job search. Clean up any networking profiles you have.
If you don't have networking profiles, create them. Then link to them on your blog. Employers will be able to find your profiles easily. Make sure these profiles are squeaky clean.
Why create the profiles? They can eliminate confusion. An employer won't confuse you with that other Mary Johnson with a raunchy profile.
Create a profile on LinkedIn. Use it to showcase your professional accomplishments. You can also network with others who can help with your job search.
Professionals can help
Companies like ReputationDefender and Reputation Hawk specialize in improving online reputations. These services can be costly. In some cases, you'll pay thousands of dollars. Others charge $30 or so for each post they remove.
These services are handy if you have money but no time. You can do most of this yourself, though.
Cleaning up your reputation can take months. So, start now - whether you're job hunting or not.