I am NOT a Florida millionaire who was recently convicted of murdering his wife. I am NOT the director of a youth choir. I am NOT recently deceased (As Mark Twain once put it, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”) But a recent internet search of my name, Robert Ward, yielded some very interesting information about several other Roberts.
In the age of www.what.ever, it has become extremely difficult to both maintain your privacy and ensure the accuracy of information being spread about your name. This can be extremely important to someone looking for a job.
Fortunately, many aspects of your privacy are and have always been protected. For instance, a criminal background check or credit check on you cannot be performed without your permission. Your divorce records are generally private. A potential employer cannot ask you any questions regarding your medical history or the health of your family. Degree verifications, which I routinely perform, require that I provide a date-of-birth, which I must obtain from you.
But the scope of the internet makes other areas of privacy nearly impossible to control. Public records include a wealth of information on such matters as property ownership, residence address, business ownership, age, trademark applications, etc. that may or may not show up in the course of an internet search of your name. And you cannot prevent any published newspaper article about you from being made available on the wordwide web. If you have recently received a charitable award or a DUI and either matter was reported in your local newspaper, chances are an employer can discover that information.
Additionally, if you have a facebook page, a blog, or a website that is available for public consumption, your potential employer will be very interested in consuming.
Those of us with business-related websites and blogs thrive on the attention we can gain from these vehicles. (http://www.robertward.com/)
But if you control a blog that advocates anarchy in the streets or a facebook profile that depicts your life as anarchy in the streets, that blog or profile will probably not aid you in your job search. When there are more people looking for jobs than there are jobs, the people with the semi-clothed revelers cavorting through their facebook profiles may not be the ones getting the jobs.
To protect yourself, I suggest increasing the privacy settings on all your social media profiles, at least for the duration of your job search. Remove most pictures from any public profile. If you have a personal blog, make it accessible only to a limited group of family and friends. Even the most innocuous personal information regarding your thoughts, your dreams, your family and friends may be too much to reveal in the context of a job search.
Additionally, perform a search using your name. If possible, try to clean up or correct any misinformation that is out there relating to you and/or be prepared to explain any news you have been part of that has made it to the web. (If your name is Robert Ward, you might be able to hide behind the other evil Robert Ward. But if your name is Iona Minestronia, it may be difficult to claim that you were not the Iona Minestronia photographed during illicit behavior in Times Square.)
Be aware of the internet and the information that is “out there.” Be aware that a potential employer may know more than you think he/she knows about you. Behave well, at least in public. Tell the truth.