Fixing a Faulty Social Media Reputation

By Janet Wall

It is an established fact that more and more hiring authorities are looking to social media sites to gather information about a person prior to making a final hiring decision. A recent Microsoft-sponsored study revealed that 79% of US HR/Recruitment professionals use online information to evaluate candidates most or all of the time. Further, 70% of US HR/Recruiters have rejected candidates based on their online reputation. Only a little over one third of the consumers surveyed reported being concerned that their online reputation impacts their chances of getting a job or admission into a college or university in the future.


Performing pre-employment background checks of social media sites is becoming increasingly prevalent. Agencies and institutions are often outsourcing the tasks to other companies that have developed tools to automate the process. According to social media expert Courtney Shelton Hunt, PhD, Founder of SMinOrgs, “Even if you are not actively on the job market, your digital identity and activity can still be found through social searches. Therefore, it’s in your best interests to establish a strong positive digital presence and monitor and manage it regularly.”


How do you know if your online reputation is positive, and what do you do if it needs to be strengthened or repaired? Here are some steps you can take.


Google Yourself. Be smart about your online identity. See what others are seeing and saying. You may have an online reputation that is vastly different from what you thought or intended. Just enter your name into Google to see what comes up. If you have a strong online identity or brand, many of the entries on the first few pages will be about you. If you do not have a strong presence but a relatively common name, then many people with the same name will appear. That is important to know because their reputation may be mistaken for yours. In addition to Google, there are free programs like http://addictomatic.com/ or http://www.pipl.com that will look for your name on several sites. You may be very surprised what you see.


Take It Down. If you find anything negative, the first thing you should do is remove the negative information from any sites over which you have control. That means removing embarrassing photos, inflammatory statements, or anything that can be negatively interpreted.


If the harmful photos or information exists on a site over which you have no control, ask the site owner to take it down. Many times she or he will comply with your request.


Bury it Deep. But what if you have tried everything and still there is some digital dirt out there about you? By increasing positive activity on the web, you can bury the negative information so deep that it has less likelihood of being found or given credence. When recruiters or admissions officers search for your name, they are not likely to delve into the web many pages deep. If you can fill the web with positive information about you, the negative information won’t rise to the top and thus may not ever be detected. Here are some ways to do that.



Conclusion: It is important to manage your online reputation first by knowing what is out there about you; and second, removing negative information to ensure that your online reputation enhances your potential and promise in the workplace and your career.



Janet WallDr. Janet Wall, EdD, CDFI, MCDP, is a career development practitioner with interests in assessment, technology, evaluation, online learning, and writing. She has authored several books related to assessment and career development topics. As founder of www.CEUonestop.com , Janet has created several online courses supported with CEU clock hours by NBCC and CCE. She also has created an e-book on free technology tools you can use to enhance your training, teaching, and business activities. Her website is http://www.janetwall.net. Contact her at careerfacilitator@janetwall.net.

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Kathy Condon   on Thursday 12/01/2011 at 07:13 PM

Not only did you point out "why" it is important to be careful what you write on Social Media, you did a great job of telling people what they can do to correct.

This is an article that needs to be forwarded to every possible place we can.


Janet Wall   on Thursday 12/01/2011 at 07:32 PM

So glad you found this helpful. Great! Appreciate your positive comments. I didn't know it was available till I received your comment.

I was thinking about how career center directors, counselors, and others could use this to get the point across that we are all very vunerable about what we put out there for others to see.

I hope people include this in their resources for students to "get the point."

More comments are welcome.

Paula Brand   on Thursday 12/01/2011 at 08:01 PM

Good article Janet. Thanks for sharing this important information. I educate job seekers on this point on a regular basis. It is a must to know in today's world!

Janet Wall   on Thursday 12/01/2011 at 08:20 PM

Appreciate your comment, Paula. I think it takes a lot of reminding for people to understand what is out there about them and others. I have even been surprised over what is posted about me -- that I didn't post.

I have grand kids who are clueless, but fortunately tame in what they post.

Young people just put it out there not realizing the potential consequences. Employers are watching.

Marcia Roper   on Thursday 12/01/2011 at 09:33 PM

Thanks for sharing these useful tips. I have promptly shared this article with my children and professional contacts who I hope are savvy to the advantages and possible pitfalls of social media.

Phoenix Ho   on Friday 12/02/2011 at 03:42 AM

Dear Janet,
This is a very useful and timely article for young people in Vietnam. I often come across my students' wall messages expressing their negative attitude toward their work during the office hours. I shared your article on my facebook and received lots of 'like' from my students.
Thank you for sharing.
With care,
Phoenix Ho

Angela deFreitas   on Friday 12/02/2011 at 06:29 AM

Found this very important and informative especially for young people who are so into social media without always realising the possible negative implications.
Will be sharing it immediately with a young friend who has an interview this morning for The Prime Minister's Youth Award For Excellence (in Journalism) here in Jamaica. We had this very conversation last night as she has been quite vocal on a variety of controversial subjects (sometimes government-related) via her active blog.
Thanks for the help.

Christine Allen   on Friday 12/02/2011 at 08:10 AM

This is a wonderful article, Janet. As the Coordinator of Career Services, I plan to share this article with our students and alumni (with permission of course:) I learned something new about google rankings when doing a search, and plan to set up a google alert for myself immediately.

Sara Shelton   on Friday 12/02/2011 at 10:41 AM

What a wonderful article! And so relevant to what is happening today. I can't wait to share this with my students and see what kind of feedback I get!

Sara Shelton   on Friday 12/02/2011 at 10:42 AM

One last thing! Where are the tweet and facebook share links!

Janet Wall   on Friday 12/02/2011 at 08:07 PM

Thanks all for your great comments. Keep them coming.
I'm glad that you can use this to shed light on the perils of social media for your students and clients.
I know all of you know this, but sometimes it takes an outsider to put it in writing to make it hit home to your clientelle.

All the best,

Susan Guarneri   on Monday 12/05/2011 at 11:09 AM

Your practical tips for online reputation management are easy to implement and make sense. As always, Janet, you are a treasure trove of information.

Here's one more tip:
Video is the best for positive Google juice! The key is to produce a professional video that establishes you as a thought leader in your field, is consistent with your personal brand, and shows you at your best.

Sometimes this requires an third-party objective assessment. There are a lot of really unprofessional videos used for job search that do not generate good Google spin. Getting an objective opinion from a third-party (not famiily or friend) such as a hiring manager, HR manager, recruiter, or professional career coach might be wise!

Kristin Guiliano   on Monday 12/05/2011 at 11:29 AM

Great article, Janet! I do monitor my online identity but was amazed by what I found last year during an in-depth check while researching for a Career Services blog post. First was an invitation sent to me using a popular invitation website. Second, under my maiden name I found my wish list from an online book retailer’s website. Both were publically available requiring no log-in to my personal account when accessed this way. It made me quite glad that the books I choose and events to which friends invite me would reflect positively, not negatively, on a person. Clearly, we need to be thoughtful about everything we do on the Internet.

Janet Wall   on Monday 12/05/2011 at 11:55 AM

Great information on the videos, Susan. You are correct in that there are horrible examples of resume videos as an example.

Kristen. Your comments are spot on. I don't think we realize the extent to which our private lives are public and available for others to find.

Nancy J. Miller   on Monday 12/05/2011 at 02:07 PM

Thank you, Janet, for the article. I often post information on Facebook about privacy and reputation since that seems to be the site that people let their hair down and share too much personal information even to the point of forgetting security for their families. Unfortunately most young people don't listen. Even some older people forget the information is public and permanent. Reminders are always welcome.

Janet Wall   on Monday 12/05/2011 at 04:05 PM

You are so right that people forget (or really don't believe) that what they post is out there for the world to see.

My take is that if you don't want to see it in the Washington Post, don't put it out there to begin with. In your case it would be the San Francisco Chronicle :-).

I was hoping that people would be able to use this piece to give to young people and reinforce the issue about being cautious and smart about what is uploaded and posted.

Angela L. Hodge-Jones   on Monday 12/05/2011 at 08:13 PM

Great informational tool to be used in my weekly career development workshops. I forwarded the article to over 200 participants that are actively looking for employment. Thank you for another great resource.
Angela L Hodge Jones
Workforce Development Professional

Janet Wall   on Monday 12/05/2011 at 08:21 PM

Angela. I'm glad you found this helpful.
CDF's will find many useful articles and resources by participating in NCDA as out primary professional association.
All the best.

James Paul Berry   on Tuesday 12/06/2011 at 07:19 PM

Janet Hall,

This is a great article. I work with job seekers, who wonder out loud sometimes, as to why they are not being hired, although they are qualified for the positions of interest. Perhaps, a negative social media reputation is to blame. May I use your article to make the same points that you have made, in my efforts to assist job seekers?

Thank you,

James Paul Berry, Business/Placement Services Representative

Janet Wall   on Tuesday 12/06/2011 at 07:34 PM

I have asked the Career Convergence editor to respond to your request. I am not sure of the policy in this instance.

I very much appreciate your interest in this article. I am delighted you have found this to be of use to you and your clients.
Hooray that you are workforce development key player. Your work is so important to our national economy.

Janet Wall

Melanie Reinersman   on Wednesday 12/07/2011 at 12:01 PM

As Editor of this web magazine, I can grant reprint permission for anyone wishing to use this article with job seekers, students, clients, etc. Please use the following citation:
"This article originally appeared in NCDA's web magazine, Career Convergence, at www.ncda.org. Copyright National Career Development Association, (month, year). Reprinted with permission."

Nancy J. Miller   on Thursday 12/08/2011 at 01:57 AM

One of the best ways to build your professional reputation and share your expertise online is to use the link to this article as well as other Career Convergence articles on your blog, website, and/or social media sites. Whenever possible use links to a reputable professional site that gets heavy traffic such as NCDA. You will also be directing your colleagues to a wealth of relevant career information.

You can share your expertise, hone your writing skills, gain CEU's, and get more Google hits by writing an article for Career Convergence.

Rochelle Johnson Benning   on Friday 12/09/2011 at 12:03 PM

Great article Janet. I think this comes at a really crucial time where we're seeing the affects of unchecked facebook and twitter postings in today's news.

Thank you for sharing these very useful tips.


Janet Wall   on Friday 12/09/2011 at 02:28 PM

Thanks Rochelle. I just came across this from Education Week. It focuses more on high school students, but still seems relevant.

Do students understand potential consequences of social media use?
Educators in schools across the country are working to teach students about the potential consequences of their use of social media, which can affect college acceptance, but some say students are not getting the message. "The disconnect happens because of their age and level of maturity. We're constantly dealing with students who are inappropriate in what they say online," said high-school principal Franklin Caesar. Now, some schools are beginning digital-responsibility lessons earlier, while others are seeking a formalized curriculum

Linda Woodard, CDFI, GCDF, CWDP   on Tuesday 12/27/2011 at 01:35 PM

This is great information. I have a PPT presentation on Slideshare about career portfolios and I included some info about being careful about your online profiles. I hope you don't mind me quoting you in that presentation when I update it in a few days.

Again, thanks!

Janet Wall   on Tuesday 12/27/2011 at 02:21 PM

Glad you found this useful. I hope your CDF students do as well. By all means quote away. Take a look at Melanie's 12/7 post which give permission to use the entire pie with reference to NCDA and Career Convergence as stated.

Brianna Harrington   on Tuesday 05/08/2012 at 08:30 PM

Hi Janet,

Thanks for the insightful post! There are so many young people who don't realize how one negative picture or comment can cost them their dream job. As you mentioned, I would also recommend job seekers create a professional blog in order to help construct the image they want found online. Do you think this is, or has already become, a must?

Janet Wall   on Wednesday 05/09/2012 at 08:38 AM

Thanks for the comment. Yes, it is my understanding that creating blogs (useful and helpful ones) will show up first in searches and may help to counteract any bad "press."

Joe Pangelinan   on Saturday 07/20/2013 at 08:43 AM

I find your piece to be relevant and helpful to share with my students and colleagues. Thank you for writing it.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of this organization.