By Mark Swartz
Monster Contributing Writer
You know it's there, haunting you as you job hunt. Your digital dirt. Pictures of you on Facebook that friends have posted. The ones of you in that teeny-weeny bikini, or chugging from a barrel of brew.
All good fun at the time. But now those old pictures, plus the silly comments you made on someone else's blog, and every other embarrassing cyber-crumb you've left behind, come up when an employer Googles you. Yikes!
All is not lost though. There are ways to dust away a good deal of that digital dirt. As for the compromising bits that stay behind, you can bury them in an avalanche of positive links about you. Here's how.
Dust Your Own Dirt First
It's easiest to start with content that resides on your own sites. Check your Facebook pages for incriminating photos and critical comments. Profanity and vulgarity too. Your Facebook status could cost you your job.
If you still want to keep all your crazy content, then lock down your privacy. Change your settings so that only the people in your inner circle can see them. Otherwise friends of friends and the general public can peek in.
Ask To Have Your Dirt Removed Elsewhere
Back to Google (and other search engines) for a moment. You can search for links about you by your name. Use the same full name that's on your resume and business cards. Look for photos and mentions of you that you wouldn't want an employer to see. Then sign up for the alerts available at spots like Google Alerts
; when information about you is added or updated, you’ll find out via email.
Locate where any offending items about you are hosted, by visiting their links. A polite request to the site operator, asking them to please take down this content, may just work. Don't bother petitioning the search engines themselves. Unless a court rules that the picture or other info about you is libelous, the link stays put.
Be careful when you ask a site to remove material about you. If you’re dealing with an in-your-face blog, sending an email to the blogger requesting that something about you be deleted can backfire. Bloggers have been known to post those emails, so be aware that your request could end up casting more unfavorable attention on you.
Bury The Bad Stuff With Positive Links
You probably can't get rid of all the older stuff that doesn't reflect well on you. If that's the case, the best defense is an offence: go out and proactively bury the bad with the good.
The idea is to push your negative links further down in search engine results. Employers may not have time to check the fifth or twelfth page of results when doing a background check on you online
Produce a bunch of positive mentions about you that the search engines will pick up. Here are some methods that work:
- Post interesting comments to other people's blogs, websites and forum discussions
- Write short articles about your field of work and place them on websites (yours and others)
- Ensure that your public profile for LinkedIn, BeKnown and Facebook are top notch
Don't Let Digital Dirt Hurt Your Reputation
You've been so careful to craft a great resume and cover letter. Your references are all lined up to speak glowingly about you when potential employers call. Now it's time to remove any web crumbs that might tarnish your reputation.
Dusting your digital dirt is a key part of doing a reference check on yourself
. So clean up your crumbs and let the best of you shine through.