By now, most people know that everything they say online might as well be said on national television. Of course some, like the none too bright thieves who post their spoils on Facebook are never going to learn, but the vast majority of us have started to protect our online identities. Unfortunately, sometimes dirt from our past still haunts the internet, and some of it, like things posted by exes or old friends may be out of our control. Unfortunately, you can’t delete a drunken picture on someone else’s profile.
So how can you clean up your digital dirt? Well, for starters, you need to know what dirt is out there. There are a lot of services that will do the legwork for you here. Places like Reputation Defender will search all the sites that mention you, and their team can work on getting any bad references cleaned up, or at the very least, moved down in the search engines. Claim ID will also protect online profiles you do wish to use, and will back them up in case you need them later.
A quick Google search of your name and nicknames will help you find much of this for free, however. While it may miss items in the Deep Web (pages that Google cannot access because users must be logged in to see them), this search will show you anything an employer is likely to see. Be sure to do an image search for your name as well. Once you’ve located any references to yourself that aren’t wholly professional, you can begin to weed them out. Here are some basic places to begin:
Blogs: If someone references you in their blog unfavorably, it’s always a good idea to speak to that person, and politely ask them to remove the reference. If they refuse, contact the service they are blogging through, and petition for them to intervene. If the other person is not blogging through a third party, then you have limited options, aside from working hard to make sure the good references appear first. On your own blog, make sure that all posts with questionable content can only be viewed by those who you have allowed to read them.
Social Networking Sites: If someone has tagged you on an image in Facebook, it’s possible for you to remove that tag yourself. Make sure that no tagged images of you looking unprofessional are floating around on the web. We’ve all heard the story about the person who called in sick to work and then posted their ‘partying’ pictures on MySpace–only to get caught and fired. Or worse, telling your Facebook pals that your ‘job is boring‘ as one girl did. On other sites (Twitter for example), you may not have the option to remove your name from something. Always speak to the person with the image, and make sure that your name is not attached to the image. On your own profiles, you can and should delete any bad images, and lock any negative language behind a block that allows only people in your network to view it. Never allow employers or coworkers onto your network.
Websites: If you have left any comments on a website, and listed your full name, it may be possible to contact the owner of the site and ask for permission to change the name on the comment, or remove your surname. In the future, do not make any comments on websites, blogs, or forums with your full name. In fact, never use your full name online unless it is in a business capacity.
These tricks will help you get your online reputation back on track and secure an interview without raising any eyebrows.