The next time you submit your resume somewhere or fill out a job application, you'd better sit down at your computer first and check your entries at Google. Though many won't openly admit it, the number of human resources people who are running your name on Google before granting any interview is growing tremendously. In fact, employers are beginning to establish official parameters on where to begin the hunt for information and how far to take the search.
Forget about whether the government is tapping your telephone. As the Information Age grows, your REAL worry should be what you have at MySpace, Facebook, and on Google generally, because this is now where everyone goes to check you out.
At Adventure Books for example, when a potential author sends us a book proposal, we run their name on Google before we decide whether the proposal is worthy or not. And then we follow the links provided. These days, you just can't hide from Google. We can find out an author's publishing history, stories he/she has posted at writers' sites, what forums they hang out at, their personal habits, political leanings, and even whether they are a conspiracy nut, or just plain crazy. It's a simple matter, really.
In a previous article titled 'Ten Strange Things That Can Happen to You Using Future Technology' I mention that far and above the control of oil, money, or political power, the REAL control will come from those who control the information.
'If corporations control the information, they will become the most powerful entities in the future. If governments control it, then THEY will be the most powerful. If YOU control your own information...well, you can see where this is going.'
In addition, a lot of employers now have people who are pretty good at searching out everything about you. They know how to implement an 'advanced search' that really works and will dig up photos and posts you made that you probably forgot about a long time ago. And you make it easy for them by providing a neatly-filled-out job application or resume. They can narrow down their search without even breaking a good sweat.
According to the New York Times, companies recruiting seniors on college campuses are now almost universally using search engines to learn more about potential applicants. Not only do these guys use Google, but they also search sites like MySpace, Xanga, Facebook, and Friendster. Michael Sciola, director of the career resource center at Wesleyan University says this:
'It's a growing phenomenon. There are lots of employers who Google. Now they've taken the next step...'
What can you do to create a better posture for yourself?
First, beat them to the punch. Run your name on Google once in a while and check out what is accessible about you on the internet. Concentrate on the first five pages at Google, using both a general and an advanced search with your exact name. Employers will often do an advanced search based on your first, last, and middle initial, to avoid confusing you with other people who may have the same name.
Then delete anything that looks bad, either by editing those posts to make them harmless, or deleting your accounts at sites you wished you had never joined.
If you use an image host, drop by that site and delete any embarrassing images you have in your account. This will make them disappear instantly from any other place where you linked them. It's easier than searching out each individual site where you posted up pictures from your last Animal House party, for example.
After all of this, if you still have a few bad entries, try building up GOOD ones at different sites - to force the bad ones farther down the Google list. Even employers seldom go past the third or fourth page at Google.
*Robert Blevins is the co-founder and managing editor for Adventure Books of Seattle.*