How to Stay Out of Trouble Online to Get Your Resume Noticed

By Laura DeCarlo

That possible employer will not want to see your resume if his first impression of you when he searches online is negative. Think down the road, and think twice before engaging in a flame war or lighting one up with firecrackers that carry your name tag. How do employers and recruiters ferret out your faults? They search for your name on various websites and search engines. The following recommendations help you put your best digital footprint forward.

Set up a free Google Alert on your name

The alerts you receive offer early warnings about identity mix-ups — those evil twins who have your same name and are out there online ruining it. Go to Google Alerts and type your name (surrounded by quotation marks) into the “Search terms” box. Select “Everything” as the “Type.”

To be double-sure you’re free, clear, and clean, perform a daily search for your name on Google or a search engine of your choice. Even if an employer doesn’t check social networks or blogs, you can bet a basic Google search is part of how you’re researched. Pages from social media and blogs may appear at the top of such a search.

Beware the overshare

Don’t post trash you don’t want everyone to know — no one needs to see you surrounded by beer cans at a party. Don’t post anything about your dating life. Don’t post your birthdate. Don’t post anything that may embarrass you five years down the road. Unless you’re posing with the president of a nation or the Dalai Lama, don’t tag or post your name on party photos. Don’t mix business and personal details online.

Most of all, if you’re employed, don’t post news of your job search in tweets or status updates, which is as dangerous as the boss finding your resume in the office copy machine.

Select Facebook friends with caution

To friend or not to friend bosses and coworkers? The jury’s still out on that question but remember this: No matter whom you allow past the velvet rope and into your Facebook life, lock down privacy filters to create different levels of friends, such as professional and personal, and to select how much information each group can see.

All the security settings under the sun won’t protect you if one friend decides to share your content with the rest of the world. Ignoring friend requests isn’t rude, and gathering friends competitively opens you up to privacy problems. But it is a myth that you can see who has viewed your profile — that’s technically impossible.

Keep an eye on comments

Remember that you’re not the only writer on your account. Any of your friends can comment on your Facebook wall or your LinkedIn posts. Daggers have been known to slip in among the diamonds.

Network building is a worthy pursuit, but a huge number of pseudo friends doesn’t count for much in your career world and creates needless risk. Moreover, becoming online pals with celebrities and politicians isn’t always a hot idea: It may cause employers to wonder whether you’re too full of yourself and will be overly demanding.

Don’t go naked on Twitter

Letting it all hang out on the tweet line invites everyone to follow and see what you’re up to. That’s not only unsafe, it’s uncool. Instead, open multiple free accounts (no limit) and make sure the one with your real name on it is as pure as a falling snowflake. If you feel you must pass on frisky questionable links, use an alias account.

List respected groups on LinkedIn

Give thought to which interest groups and associations claim you as a member, and give deeper thought as to whether all of them do you proud on your professional profile.

In the United States, civic groups such as Kiwanis and Rotary contribute to your good name, but Vampire Cretins of America cause pause because . . . well, it may lead some people to perceive you as a weirdo. Further, keep in mind that even seemingly innocent groups, such as ones that are politically motivated, can cause angst in your job search. Unlike data that search engines dig up about you, information in your profile is under your control.

Bird-dog your blog tracks

If you’re blogging on your own creation and other blogs, be mindful of what you’re saying (and have said) as it relates to your job life. Maybe you ranted something you regret, like a previous depression or law case, and would like a rematch. If you haven’t already done it, use Google Blog Search to see what’s up and what you’d like to take down. If the search engines aren’t indexing your personal blog, look into registering it with the likes of Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

Keep mum on grievances

Bellyache elsewhere when you please, but not in the land of cyber-please. Stay positive. And don’t overlook specific accomplishments that boost your brand.

Remember that turnabout is fair play

Don’t sabotage others by indiscreetly spilling unsavory beans or playing jokes that can provoke injury to a friend. For example, don’t comment online to someone starting a new job, “Congrats! Hope you break your record and last three months!” Blabbing “state secrets” invites reciprocal action.

Join the right armies

Participate on forums, discussion threads, groups, and so on that create positive content and jibe with your career plans. Comment on websites and blog postings with high traffic.

For example, adding your profile to LinkedIn, which has a high rank with search engines, pushes your profile higher in Google search results. You can also publish your profile on Plaxo, VisualCV.com, and About.me. Check possible cross-reference links on each website where you post a profile.

Not only does being seen in the right places give you online credibility, but these mentions also help crowd out dirt and relocate it to the back of the line.