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Managing your online identity

You can learn a lot about me if you Google me.

Among the tid-bits you will learn: I wrote for the Stater and The Courier; the Ohio Newspaper Association awarded me its women’s scholarship; I want to visit Africa, join the Peace Corps, write a book and take my mom back to her birth place; several accomplishments have been noted on Kent JMC’s Web site; I narrowly missed the Dow Jones cut off last year but was a top prospect anyway… A lot. Most of it good. Some of it funny or embarassing. But nothing I’d be ashamed to have someone else know about me. (OK, the whole HTML for the Common Human thing is pretty embarassing, but I’d like to point out it was created in April 1998 — I was only 13!)

I decided to investigate this after reading an article from the Christian Science Monitor (Do you need a Web publicist?) that discusses such things. Interesting to note as I search for a job:

A June survey by ExecuNet, which studies recruiting trends, says that 77 percent of executive recruiters run background checks on candidates by using search engines. One-third of them (a slight increase from 2005) said they eliminated applicants based on what they found.

A survey by CareerBuilder.com found that 1 in 4 hiring managers used search engines to screen candidates. One in 10 also checked candidates’ profiles on social networking sites such as MySpace or Facebook.

Hrm. Well, I have no skeletons to hide. Even my Facebook profile — where you can learn that “When I grow up, I want to write the sayings on Taco Bell Sauce packets or select the quotes for Starbucks cups…” and that my interests include being right, journalism, scrabble, scrapbooking and walks in the park and that I think people falling down is hilarious, hate smelling like smoke and spent more time in the Stater than I did in class — isn’t a gold mine of disqualifying information or photos. (I don’t have a MySpace account, which should save any job recruiters who come across this some time. I think they’re creepy and the music videos, obnoxious color schemes and photo overload drive my Web designer brain crazy.)

Still, this is an interesting concept. As more and more information is put online, including some of it by children or teens too young to care or know better, how will this impact hiring practices? Could that angsty LiveJournal post disqualify a potential candidate or could the Facebook photo of someone doing a shot bar them from getting a shot? Should it? I don’t know.

Honestly, I don’t see the problem with potential employers checking you out online. Why shouldn’t they use every tool available to screen potential candidates and prevent potential problems? Shouldn’t the job-hunter know better. According to this article, most of my peers disagree.

They found that 40 percent of employers say it’s OK to use Facebook when making a hiring decision; only 19 percent of the students agreed. Sixty percent of the students said employers should not consider a Facebook entry.

But, honestly, once/if you are hired, you represent the company, especially in a field such as journalism. You are the face of the organization to the community. Yeah, it’s not a responsibility you asked for, but it comes with the territory. The best prediction for future actions is based on past. The Internet, much like references, allows potential bosses to know where you’ve been.

Here’s to hoping there’s nothing to hide.

One Response to “Managing your online identity”

  1. Meranda Writes » Blog Archive » Unprofessional photo? No degree for you. Says:

    […] I blogged in detail about this earlier during my own job search: Managing your online identity […]