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Don't Blow Your Cover

By By Susan P. Joyce

Over and over, I see job seekers under-estimating the reach of every-day technology and, consequently, sabotaging their own job search. The combination of e-mail, blogs, social media, and search engines can be very damaging to a successful job search.

Apply these guidelines to your use of other social media, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and others.

Sharing Your Secrets with Your Facebook Friends, LinkedIn Groups, or Twitter Followers

Last month, a job seeker posted a tweet in which he complained that his previous manager fired him based on "trumped-up charges." So he announced to the world that (1) he had been fired from his last job and (2) that there were "charges" against him.  Yikes!

Neither of those disclosures would make him appealing to another employer, regardless of the truthfulness of his statement.

A big red flag is flying over this job seeker for several reasons, not the least of which was that he disclosed this kind of information on Twitter for his followers to see and for the rest of the world to find via search engines.

If you must make rude, nasty, or inflammatory comments in social media, or share your biggest, baddest secret, don't do it with the same identity or accounts you use for your job search.

Blogging (and Commenting) Away Your Privacy!

Blogs are fun, informative, and often controversial. It's very tempting to post a comment on a blog, but you need to be aware that - even if it is a "private" blog - tens or hundreds, if not thousands of other visitors to that blog may view your comments.

However, it's not safe to assume that only people interested in the subject being blogged will see your comments because of our good friends, the search engines (see below).


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Know that Search Engines Catalog Billions of Web Pages

It's their job! The last time I noticed Google's count of the Web pages included in their database (around 2010), the number was 8,058,044,651 - that's over 8 BILLION Web pages! The other search engines also claim to have indexed billions of Web pages.

And that number must have more than doubled by now!

These days, what happens in Vegas, stays in Google, Bing, etc.

Google Yourself!

Recruiters and potential employers, as well as potential colleagues, creditors, etc., use Google 80% of the time or more, to see what's "out there" about you. See Job-Hunt's Defensive Googling article for more information.

Do your own Google search to see what will be found, and repeat that search periodically, even if you have always been very careful with e-mail and don't post to blogs. Someone else with the same, or a very similar name, may not be as cautious, and you could be assumed to be the person who made the faux pas or the damaging statements.

What Should You Do to Recover?

For content already pulled into the search engines -

  • If the content is on your own Facebook pages or on your own Website (or a part of a Website that you can control), remove the page or the content yourself.
  • If the information is in Web page someone else controls, you can request that they remove the content.
  • Feed the search engines new positive content about you to push those secrets to the second or third page of a Google search result on your name. You can do this with social media - LinkedIn and Google+ in particular - and you can also establish profiles on sites like bx.businessweek.com, amazon.com, etc.

It may take several months for the changes, assuming that they are made, to percolate through all the search engine databases.

Damage control - If the content cannot be removed, prepare a "damage control" plan - something to tell potential employers about the message or the posting that will present it in the most benign light possible.

Identity crisis - If comments made by someone else look like they were made by you, be sure to make that an important component of your damage control plan.

[Read Finding the Best Version of Your Name for Your Job Search.]

To make comments and/or send e-mail "safely" --

  • Establish a private, throw away, e-mail address with Google, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc. Never use your name in association with that e-mail address!
  • Don't leave your name attached to anything that may come back to haunt you. Watch out for the "signature file" that your e-mail software may automatically attach to the bottom of every message you send. Or, your member "profile" linked to some blogs or other group postings.
  • Don't send personal e-mail from work or using a computer and/or Internet connection provided by your employer. The same applies to personal postings on blogs. You may be violating the organization's "acceptable use" policy (which can get you fired), and, in the U.S., you can have no assumption of privacy.

Technology can be our biggest friend, but it can be an enemy as well. As the old Hill Street Blues police sergeant used to tell the patrol officers at the start of every watch, "be careful out there!"

More About Online Reputation Management


About the author...

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.


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