If you haven’t, you are not alone. A Pew Internet study reported that only 57% of Internet users have ever searched for information about themselves using a search engine and only 20% have ever searched for information about themselves on social media sites like Facebook and Flickr.
What is Your Online Reputation?
Your online reputation consists primarily of two types of data: (1) online public records, and (2) online information about you shared by you and others you know.
Online Public Records
By the time most Americans have reached voting age, there is a staggering amount of data amassed about them online that they had no hand in putting together and that is not within their control. For Americans this information can include address history; phone numbers; cell phone records; birth records index data or date of birth; U.S. census data; political affiliation; home sales; home value; court records; criminal history; newspaper accounts; credit history; estimated income; Internet search engine history; federal and state tax records; health records and images; surveillance photos; online and offline transaction records; and Social Security Number (SSN).
Information You and Others Share
If you are on a social networking site like Facebook or LinkedIn, or if you have a blog, website, or public profile, your digital footprint also may contain truthful, detailed, current personal data such as date of birth, hometown, relationship status, political and religious views, personal and family photos, online and offline contact information, gender, sexual preference, favorite books, education, and employment history. This data is primarily under your control and consists of data posted online by you, but it also may contain information posted online by others about you, such as family, friends, and colleagues.
What Digital Dirt is Floating Around About You?
Do you really know how much information you’ve put online and what portrait it paints of you when it is gathered together in one place? Check out this fascinating video from Eric Gradman, an interactive artist in Los Angeles, California, who shows people their digital dirt in a (maybe too) fun way.
Is Your Online Data Affecting Your Job Search?
In a 2010 survey of U.S. recruiters and HR professionals, 70% said that they search online for information about a candidate before hiring and they reported high rates of rejections based on their findings. Why did they reject candidates? The top reasons cited were lifestyle concerns, inappropriate comments made by individuals and their associates, and unsuitable photos and videos.
CareerBuilder found that 45% of HR professionals use social networking sites to research job candidates, and that more than one-third of those surveyed said they didn’t hire someone because of what they had found in a social networking site profile.
Manpower Inc. reported that almost 70% of business and HR professionals use social networking sites to research job candidates. Sixty percent of those surveyed use Facebook to research potential hires, and 34% use LinkedIn.
Some Good News
Hiring managers surveyed said that when they found positive information about an individual online, it benefited the potential hire. In the 2010 Microsoft-funded survey, 85% of U.S. recruiters and HR professionals said that a positive online reputation influences their hiring decision, with almost 50% saying that it influences them to a great extent. In the CareerBuilder.com survey, 18% said positive social networking profiles encouraged them to hire the candidate.
Improve Your Online Reputation
- Think before you post. Take time to think before you hit the send button. You’ll never regret it. A good test for judging whether to post something online is the Rotary Club’s Four-Way test:
(1) Is it the TRUTH?
(2) Is it FAIR to all concerned?
(3) Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
(4) Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
- Don’t try to be cute or funny or joke with people you don’t know.
- Never post in anger.
- Don’t be a bully or a troll.
- Don’t overshare or post inappropriate material.