'Digital Dirt' Derailing Job Seekers'Digital Dirt' Derailing Job Seekers
Careful what you blog, record, or videotape on the Net. More and more employers are searching online for information about job applicants, and what you post could come back to haunt you.
July 11, 2006
More than one-third of employers have eliminated a candidate after digging up "digital dirt," according to ExecuNet.
In a recent survey of 100 executive recruiters, 35 percent said they dropped a job candidate because of information uncovered online. That is up from 26 percent just one year ago, according to ExecuNet, an executive job search and recruiting network. Seventy-seven percent of respondents said they use search engines to learn more about prospective employees. Another study showed that 82 percent of executives expect companies and recruiters to enter their name into a search engine during the course of their next job search, yet only 33 percent have ever actually conducted an Internet search on themselves. "Conducting searches for your own name is something that should be done on a regular basis," Dave Opton, ExecuNet CEO and founder, said in a prepared statement. "Until you're aware of everything that's connected to your name online, it's impossible to try to overcome any potential employer objections." The survey also found that 16 percent of executives said they fear that information found online could eliminate them from consideration for a job opening. Thirteen percent said they have taken steps to add positive personal information online. In fact, visual designer Jason Zimdars, said he had a positive experience during his last job search. "Many times in interviews, the interviewer would comment on a blog post I had written or a book on my Amazon wish list," he wrote on a Web discussion board addressing the topic. "These were great ice-breakers and really helped me to connect with potential employers on a more personal level. Well-executed online information can be a great asset in your job search as companies can learn more about you than simply by reading your resume." Ryan Rafferty said recruiters should be looking for people with as much information online as possible. "That way they can have some locus of control over the people they are hiring rather than taking a risk with an unknown and unpredictable personality," he said. Several people posting anonymously had a different view. "I was worried about this kind of thing when I started using the web about 10 years ago and I have very rarely revealed my real name online," one Digg reader said. "Now, if you search for my name there are only two matches which are totally harmless. Paranoid maybe, but it can't do any harm." Another said recruiters reportedly paid students at a university to access Facebook pages. In addition to searching one's own name to determine whether damage control is necessary, it is possible to improve an online image by taking other action. ExecuNet recommends using restraint rather than posting negative comments on blogs, social networking profiles and Internet forums. The company also recommends seeing advice when attempting to counter or explain "digital dirt." WSJ.com also has an online guide explaining how a job seeker can clean up his or her act and image online.
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