5 Ways to Keep Your Online Background Profile In Check

These days, about 78 percent of job recruiters rely on online profile information for an easy background check before they make any hire. They know that the vast majority of today’s hireable people have a strong online presence – and all too often, people keep their regrettable online info public and searchable. About 63 percent of recruiters check social media sites, where pictures and posts can be unflattering, to say the least. Around 8 percent of companies have fired someone based on information found through such searches.

This trend has led to a number of hasty services that offer to clean up online profiles, change Google search results, etcetera. Here is a basic list to help you get started on your own profile management. If you have already had online “background check” problems in the past, the steps also include ways to improve future results and restore your reputation.

1. Social Networks: Mental Filters. It is all too easy to post unwise material on social networks if you are not thinking about it. To stop the process, make a habit out of double-checking what you post. Michigan, for example, advocates the “once posted, always posted” rule. If you put something on a social network site, others will be able to access it even if you try to remove it later. Copies will still exist in cyberspace somewhere. So go forward a year, or ten years, and think if you will want to be writing that post or looking like that in a photograph.

2. Create Good Buzz. To avoid confusion, demonstrate your true online profile by signing up to all the major social sites and networks. You do not need to actively start using all of them, but you should have a presence, anyway. Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Profile – the list goes on. Google and other search engines give a lot of weight to these sites, and less to obscure sites that have material that you do not like or that is not actually you.

3. Create a Media Policy. This is a good idea for both small businesses and families. Create a policy that dictates how you will talk about family members, coworkers, friends…whatever is appropriate. The U.S. Navy, for example, devotes an entire subsection of its handbook to friending, blogging, and socializing online. Its concerns range from releasing national information to hurting morale with online complaints. Your concerns are likely to be more…civilian, but they still deserve a strict policy. Once you write it down, it will hold far more meaning. If your company has a privacy policy in place, read it carefully to avoid trouble down the road.

4. Accept that Mistakes Happen. A criminal halfway around the world may share your name. Someone may spell your name slightly wrong and mistake you for a porn star. Google search mechanics might pull information on a completely different person because of mistaken algorithms. NASA has several other entertaining examples on its personable online profile management page. You cannot help these accidents from happening, but you can help diminish their likelihood and put out the fires when they spring up. Do not waste time in anger or self-pity – do what you can to solve the problem. Easy tricks like adding your middle initial in all your profiles (and business cards) could clear up many errors.

5. Respond When Appropriate. If someone has a mistaken idea about you, or finds a particular damning piece of information about you online, consider damage control. Identify blogs and web pages you are associated with and tag them with your name to avoid confusion. Post replies, comments, and flag false comments for removal if you can. If you own a business, do not be afraid to respond to negative reviews with a different explanation of the facts.

Take an Active Role in Managing Your “Digital Footprint”

You cannot escape your online profile, but you can manage it. If you learn to keep your digital footprint – the data you leave in your wake as you use the Internet – in check, you will not have to worry about future problems. Above all, consider everything you post online as an extension of yourself. The data and its consequences are real. Keep that in mind and the rest will be easy.