"Just as we Google former boyfriends or girlfriends, colleagues and even ourselves, employers are no exception.
In fact, a number of surveys are showing an increase in employers and recruiters using search engines and scouring social networking sites to uncover information on job candidates.
What's more, 35 percent of 100 executive recruiters said they eliminated a candidate from consideration based on information found online last year, up from 26 percent in 2005, according to a survey by ExecuNet, an executive search firm.
With more people, particularly young folks, posting intimate information and photos online, employers and job seekers increasingly are facing an interesting dilemma. Should information found on the Internet disqualify a potentially promising candidate?
That's exactly the question the Harvard Business Review, in its June issue, asks in a fictional case study.
Chief Executive Officer Fred Weston plans to expand retail chain Hathaway Jones into China. Weston stumbles upon Mimi Brewster, daughter of Weston's old roommate from prep school. Brewster seems to possess everything Weston would want as an employee to lead the Asian expansion plans.
She had grown up in China, spoke both Mandarin and a local dialect and earned a MBA from Stanford University. Her professional experience included working for the largest clothing, shoes and accessories company in the United States.
Then Hathaway Jones' vice president of human resources finds some tidbits in a Google search of Brewster that raises concern. The search pulled up an article identifying Brewster as a leader of a protest group that helped mobilize campaigns against the World Trade Organization and another story featuring a photo of Brewster outside China's San Francisco consulate protesting China's treatment of a dissident journalist.
The HR executive suggests the company back off before getting too involved. Weston isn't too sure. After all, it's easy to find online information -- good and bad -- on anyone these days.
What should he do?
As part of the case study, four experts offer their perspective and advice on this issue. I won't go into what everyone says, but the opinions were evenly split on whether to hire Brewster.
Michael Fertik, founder and chief executive officer of ReputationDefender, a California firm that finds and removes unwanted online content for clients, says Brewster would present a risk to Hathaway Jones.
"The lesson to be learned from her experiences -- and it is a lesson for CEOs as well as for job candidates -- is that you need to know what is being said about you online," Fertik writes.
On the other hand, Danah M. Boyd, a doctoral candidate at the University of California, contends young people are doing what generations have done before them: Figuring out who they are. Except this self-discovery is taking place online.
"Many young people have a questionable online presence. If Hathaway Jones doesn't want to hire these people, it'll miss out on the best minds of my generation. Bright people push the edge, but what constitutes the edge is time dependent," she writes. "It's no longer about miniskirts or rock and roll; it's about having a complex digital presence."
What would you do if you were Weston?"http://www.quagmiresolutions.com/content/press/?id=1156349158
"Don't write anything that YOU wouldn't want to someone to read, because in reality, they are.
Personal blogs, social networks, and personal websites are filled with tons of information about you, if you post such information. Sometimes the information is damaging to you, your career, or even chances for advancement.
Many recruiters and executives regularly use the Internet to research candidates and potential employees. What they find is often times very shocking.
Try these examples:
A teacher was fired from a prior job whose school board included her firing in online meeting minutes.
A student from Buffalo, New York, was expelled for threatening to burn down his principal's house on the social networking account on MySpace.com
A professor was fired from a prominent university because she was overly critical of her employer in her online blog.
A former Delta Air Lines flight attendant says she was fired weeks after she posted photos of herself in uniform on her Internet blog
Overall, many recruiters suggest job seekers regularly check what the web has to say about them. If something negative is found, career experts suggest you ask the website owner to remove the content, helping improve your chances for that dream job or even the keep the one you have.
The sooner, the better.
These days, when someone wants to learn more about themselves and what others are saying, the first thing they're likely to do is type their name into the Google search box.
Online search engines use special programs called web spiders that visit websites and catalog the information they find, including individual names. Google, the world’s most popular online search engine, has cataloged well over eight billion web pages of information and online users can search for their own name, known as “googling yourself” in an attempt find who is talking about them.
So much for Big Brother watching, apparently we all are."