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Job seeker? Clean up your online footprint

Gail Johnson
Pay Day
Job seeker? Clean up your online footprint

A woman seeking a job as a secretary in Littleton, Colorado, put an ad on Craigslist recently that certainly drew attention — but not for the right reasons. Here’s an excerpt: “Secretay [sic] Job (Littleton): I’m 18 years old, but I have no work experience. I don’t really want a food joint gig, so I’m seeking to see if anyone needs a secretary of some sorts? I’d really love to do as less as possible for money!”

Although the post has since been removed, it’s now making the rounds on the email circuit, possibly coming soon to an inbox near you. It offers a lesson for job-seekers everywhere: pay attention to your online presence – and to clean it up if need be – or you can kiss that dream job goodbye.

In the age of social media, reference checks go far beyond a phone call to a former boss. According to a recent survey by Irish recruiting company Sales Placement, 81 per cent of employers said they would check out a candidate’s social-media presence as part of the recruitment process. Sixty-eight per cent of those surveyed would do a Google search, while 72 per cent would check out their LinkedIn profile, 35 per cent would look them up on Facebook, and 26 per cent would go to their Twitter profile.

And according to the 2013 North American Social Recruiting Activity Report, 97 per cent of recruiters use LinkedIn to vet candidates, while 27 per cent use Twitter and 22 per cent use Facebook.

“A lot of employers … will do some research online,” says Glen Grant, president of HRfx Consulting Inc., a Vancouver human-resources consulting firm. “They’ll Google a person’s name or go to LinkedIn and get a feel for their profile and how they’re connected. I don’t think it’s part of an official hiring process … but it’s another method about gathering more information about a potential applicant. From an unofficial point of view, that’s the reality of how employers work today.”

Another thing employers look for is whether details on a person’s written application and resume match any information that may exist online about him.

There are limits to how much information an employer can seek out, however. In the recent past, some companies have asked applicants or employees to turn over their passwords for social-networking sites, a move that goes too far, according to lawmakers and privacy experts. Last year alone, Canada, Germany, the U.S. Congress, and at least 11 U.S. states passed or proposed legislation directly aimed at forestalling employers’ access to personal accounts of employees, according to the American Bar Association.

Nevertheless, it’s crucial for job-seekers to consider how they come across online and to polish their profiles if necessary. Some ways to do this include:

Search yourself
Punch in your name or your business name into search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

Sign up for alerts
Email notices that alert you when you’ve been mentioned online through services such as Google Alerts or TalkWalker are a great way to track how you appear via search.

Adjust your privacy settings on various social-networking sites
Remember, the Internet never forgets. Remove any distasteful photos or posts that you’ve uploaded yourself and ask others to do the same if they’ve shared something similar that may come back to to haunt you.

Undo connections
If you made the acquaintance of some questionable individuals, groups, or associations that don’t align with your professional reputation, it's time to 'unfriend' them.

Don't be afraid to delete
If you need to delete a profile or account on a social-networking site, give yourself some time. It could take weeks or months to get through to customer-service departments at big sites and have this accomplished.

Use the Internet as a resource
Turn to sites like SimpleWash, which scans your Facebook and Twitter profiles and untags you from potentially damaging photos, and Tweet Eraser, which deletes Tweets sorted by keyword or hash tag.

Create positive content
“You can use the Internet proactively,” Grant says. Perhaps you can start a blog related to the field you wish to pursue or contribute to other blogs or sites with intelligent comments. “You can seek out opportunities by becoming an expert or someone who’s in the know in an industry,” he adds.