You can't repair a problem you don't know you have. Monitoring your online reputation is smart self-defense now, and Google Alerts are an important tool to help you.
Since the vast majority of employers do a search on job seekers' names before inviting them into an interview, job seekers can and should monitor their names using Google Alerts. Someone else with the same name who has done something shocking, unusual, or disreputable can negatively impact YOUR job search. Or, your own "digital dirt" may need to be buried.
When employers do their Google search, they won’t know if you are the person who robbed the bank or posed nude, but they probably won’t ask you if it is you or take the time to do more research to find out who it is. So, you might lose out, even if you were not the person who showed up in the Google search. The best defense in this case is knowledge!
Type your name in the “Search terms” box. Go to Google.com/alerts, and follow the steps below. Google Alerts are free, very easy to set up, and easy to cancel if you decide you don’t want them.
Enclose your name inside quotation marks, as in the example below. The quotation marks will tell Google that you want the words in your name as a phrase, so Google will look for all the words together on a page rather than each word separately which is much less useful.
I suggest “Everything” as the “Type” because that will mean Google searches through the entire Web, blogs, news, discussion, and videos. “Everything” throws the widest net which is what you want in this case.
“Once a day” is my preferred “How often” selection. The other options are “as it happens” and “once a week,” which can drive you crazy with too much activity or not notify you soon enough. If nothing happens on a given day, Google won’t send you an empty message.
“Only the best results” is Google’s recommendation to keep volume down and to be informed only when a high-quality and relevant result appears. That seems like a good idea to keep from being buried with notifications about insignificant posts.
Adding your email address and clicking on the "Create Alert" button are the last steps.
Don’t worry, Google won’t send you a message with 50 results in it unless everything in the top 50 results changes at the same time, which is extremely unlikely. More likely, you’ll receive one or two results per message, and only one or two messages per week unless your name is extremely common.
If you discover that your name is very popular, you should consider modifying your public or professional name to be unique. For example:
You get the idea. Carve out a unique version of your name, use it on your resume, LinkedIn and Google profiles, and then monitor that name, too.
Spelling out your middle name is only one option, find more options plus how to establish and strengthen your personal reputation in Defensive Googling in 5 Steps and the Guide to Online Reputation Management.
You can establish up to 1,000 Alerts if you set up a Google account (free), enabling you to monitor multiple versions of your name as well as employers who interest you, industry news, competitors, friends, and much more.
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Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn.