Posted January 25, 2008 12:23 pm by with 14 comments

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Canada’s Globe and Mail takes an in-depth look at how your Google reputation can cost you that new job, and I was happy to offer my advice for the piece.

More and more recruiters are turning to Google as part of their due diligence efforts for hiring decisions. The article quotes a couple of incidents where potential employers backed away from offering a job, once they Googled the candidate.

One Toronto-based hirer, who asked not to be named, said that a search of a promising candidate’s name turned up a dating advertisement posted by the applicant that contained “sex-related information that could be seen as bizarre.” When she revealed what she had found to a senior executive in her office, he told her that the applicant “wouldn’t be a good fit for their corporate culture.” As a result, the company discarded the candidate’s application.

Fortunately, it’s not all bad news. Hiring managers might find something positive about you.

“Once I was looking for someone to work as a programmer with the Department of National Defence,” she explained by way of example, “and through online research I discovered that the applicant had previously been with a company that had worked on military applications. It was highly relevant to the position he was applying for, and that information wasn’t on his resume.”

I was fortunate enough to be asked to share my thoughts with for the story.

I explained why negative results tend to stick on Google’s first page:

“If a client comes to me with something negative in their search results and wants it pushed out [of the first page of links returned by Google], we have to find ten other pieces of information about them that are positive and get those things to appear before the negative,” he said. “The problem is that scandal is popular. People like to talk about it, and they like to link to negative stories. Google’s algorithm looks at all of those links and thinks that [the page to which these links lead] must be highly relevant to the search query. We have to convince Google that there are other pages with information that is just as relevant.”

Why it’s not cheap to fix a bad Google reputation:

It can be an expensive process. Mr. Beal said his clients spend between $3,000 and $10,000 to clean up their search results, and, due to the chaotic nature of the Internet, he can offer no guarantees that, at the end of the day, searching his client’s name will result in nothing but squeaky clean results.

And lastly, some tips to try and be proactive:

That’s why he recommends that people begin managing their Internet identities before any undesirable information appears online by registering a domain containing a person’s name, or creating personal and professional pages on networking sites like MySpace and Linked In.

“Build up credibility in the eyes of Google,” said Mr. Beal. “You’re being searched all the time, whether you know it or not.”

Having problems with your Google reputation? Check out this free guide to managing your Google reputation, or order Andy’s new book Radically Transparent, for more in-depth tactics.

  • I agree. I used to work for a company that searched for all new applicants on line. I can remember seeing some pretty revealing information on MySpace accounts. Needless to say, applicants with unfavorable MySpace accounts or Internet reputations were not hired.

    The company couldn’t afford to have their clients find out this information first.

  • perfect!

  • Hey Andy, I’m going to announce my reputation sabotage consultancy soon. Remember that bully that pushed you in Jr. High? The mean mid-level manager at your first job out of college? The guy who cut you off on your way to work this morning? A few strategic placements of information can sabotage his career or personal life. Coming soon, to a website near you.

    /ps, in case you can’t tell, I’m joking.

  • Peter – you’re joking 🙁 I was getting a list together in my head until I read the last sentence.

    I don’t know… I think you could be on to something

    You could probably have an entire market of x spouses – up front fees for creation and implementation and a $19.95/month fee to keep Andy from being able to do his job 🙂

  • Well, that’s an amusing story about Soney Bonoi and his friends Sergey and Larry. But, the least believable part of the story is not that Sergey could try to get a hot teen up to his hotel room, but that there is such a thing as a sixteen year old virgin in Beverly Hills. 😀

  • Joy

    That’s true Andy..we always need to be careful with our Internet identities to avoid embarrassing situations, etc.

  • I would not hire any employee today without checking for them on Google, MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn and any other online “watering hole.”

    Good, bad or ugly — it reveals a great deal about the potential hire’s judgment, discretion and common sense.


  • Andy, you’re a pro at rep management. I’m surprised you aren’t charging more. Some clients can lose that much money in business a day with poor search reputation.

  • @Utah SEO – that’s the range fixing most Google issues for individuals. Other’s mileage may vary. 😉

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