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Your Online Reputation: What You Post and What People Post About You Matters

Research commissioned by Microsoft in December 2009 found that 79 percent of United States hiring managers and job recruiters surveyed reviewed online information about job applicants.

Most of those surveyed consider what they find online to impact their selection criteria. In fact, 70 percent of United States hiring managers in the study say they have rejected candidates based on what they found.

Review the results of the survey to see how online reputations impact people’s lives. The research comes from interviews with over 1,200 hiring and recruitment managers and 1,200 consumers in the United States, the U.K., Germany and France.

The results of the research reveal what you post on the Internet and what people post about you can affect your professional life.

Monitor your online reputation

First, find out what information is already on the Internet and assess the impression it leaves on people.

Follow these tips to monitor and evaluate your online reputation:

  • Search your name. Begin by typing your first and last name into several popular search engines to see where you are mentioned and in what context.
  • Focus your search. To get more precise results, put quotation marks around your name, so that the search engine reads your name as a phrase and not as two or more unrelated words that just happen to appear in the text. If you find other people who share your name, you can eliminate many false hits by using keywords. You can add keywords that apply only to you, such as your city, your employer, or a hobby.
  • Search all of your names. If you have ever used a different name, if you use your middle name or initial, if you use a nickname, or if your name is frequently misspelled, search all variations to make sure you don’t miss anything important.
  • Expand your search. Use similar techniques to search for your telephone numbers, home address, e-mail addresses, and personal Web site domain names. You should also search for your social security and credit card numbers to make sure they don’t appear anywhere online.
  • Target specific sites. Check online phone directories, genealogy sites, alumni sites, the Web sites of organizations to which you belong or donate time or money, and other sites that compile personal, professional, or contact information about people.
  • Read blogs. If any of your friends, family members, or coworkers have blogs or personal Web pages on social networking sites, check them out to see if they are writing about you or posting pictures of you.
  • Sign up for alerts. Use the feature, provided by some search engines, that automatically notifies you of any new mention of your name or other personal information.

Protect your online reputation

These tips can help you manage and protect your online reputation:

  • Safeguard your personal information. A basic strategy to avoid identity theft and online fraud is to keep your personal information private when you go online. Be equally careful about sharing information offline, and be sure you know how organizations will use your information before you give it to them.
  • Use privacy settings. Most social networking and photo-sharing sites allow you to determine who can access and respond to your content. If you’re using a site that doesn’t offer privacy settings, find another site.
  • Don’t mix your public and private lives online. Use different e-mail addresses for different online activities to help keep your public and private lives separate.
  • Choose your photos thoughtfully. Whether you’re a child or an adult, make sure potential colleges or employers can’t search the Web and find photos that make you look irresponsible.
  • Watch your language and content. You should always assume that anyone can read anything you’ve written online.
  • Take action. If you find information about yourself online that is unflattering, embarrassing, or untrue, contact the Web site owner or administrator and ask them to remove it. Most sites have policies to deal with such requests.

Learn what action you can take to manage your online reputation.

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