83 Percent of Recruiters Look for Digital Dirt

Selena Dehne, JIST Publishing

Job seekers, beware! That MySpace photo of you doing a keg stand may get a few chuckles from friends, but it's no laughing matter in the job market.

Employers are increasingly scouring the Internet for "digital dirt" to help them weed through job candidates. In fact, 83.2 percent of recruiters admitted to using online search engines in 2007 to uncover information about candidates, according to Execunet. Of these recruiters, 43 percent admitted to eliminating candidates based on the negative information they found.

Everything from racy Facebook profiles to scathing posts on community message boards to public arrest records are to blame for why perfectly qualified candidates often miss out on great job opportunities. Ellen Sautter and Diane Crompton, authors of "Seven Days to Online Networking"(JIST), add that digital dirt doesn't even have to be disastrous to knock candidates out of the running for a job.

"Digital dirt comes in all shapes and sizes. For example, the Internet might reveal that you're a member of a controversial association or that you're part of a moonlighting business that could be a conflict of interest with, or distraction from, your primary work. It can simply be something that is irrelevant to your professional reputation and distracts people from the real message you want to get across about who you are and what you have to offer," Sautter and Crompton state.

Many job seekers think they're squeaky clean in cyberspace, only to discover that someone with the same name is soiling their reputation with recruiters. Sharing a common name with people who work in the same field or live in a similar area can be extremely problematic for job seekers if negative information is lurking online

In their book, Sautter and Crompton offer the following four strategies to clean up digital dirt

Wash over it.

Create so much new online content about yourself that the negative or irrelevant information is buried under fresher, more relevant and more positive content. This method is useful when you're dealing with content that relates to someone else who shares your name. The more positive, relevant content you can create that is truly yours, the more you'll stand out from the pack of Jane Smiths and John Does.

Wash it out.

Get rid of it entirely. Having online content deleted is not easy. Unless someone you know well created or posted the content in the first place, you might have a difficult time getting the owners of the site to remove the offending content.

Wait it out.

Take no active measures to hide or delete the content, but just let nature take its course. Nature, in this case, is the natural sequence of events in most reasonably active, visible professionals' lives. This approach is only recommended if you write, speak or blog often.

Call in the pros.

Now you can employ the services, for a fee, of course, of businesses that will keep an eye on your online reputation and help you keep it clean. One of the pioneers in this field, ReputationDefender, goes on a search-and-destroy mission. This organization scours the Internet to dig up every bit of information on you and then sets out to destroy (at your request) any negative information by getting it corrected or removed, whenever possible.

Sautter and Crompton encourage people -- whether they're job searching or not -- to remember that everything they do online leaves a digital footprint. It's up to each individual to determine whether those footprints take a step in the right -- or wrong -- direction in cyberspace.

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Selena Dehne is a career writer for JIST Publishing who shares the latest occupational, career and job search information available with job seekers and career changers. Her articles help people find meaningful work, develop their career and life plans, and carry out effective job search campaigns.

Copyright 2008 Jist Publishing

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