Have you ever taken the time to run a search on your name in the search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo? What about running a background check on yourself? If not, it’s worth doing. Search engines have been indexing content for several decades, and that content can include everything you’ve posted in discussion forums and blog comments. You need to know what’s out there.
If you’ve never posted anything controversial or immature online, you probably don’t have anything to worry about. However, if your younger self used to be an internet troll, you have every reason to be concerned.
Your job might depend on a clean online reputation
A 2017 Career Builder survey found that 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates, and 54% decided not to hire someone based on what they found on social media. Social media doesn’t just include Facebook and Twitter – it can include anything that comes up in searches.
If you already have a job, don’t assume your employment is safe – half of employers regularly check employees’ social media profiles, and more than one-third have reprimanded or fired an employee for the content found.
Employers dig deeper than you think
In 2017, 30% of employers had someone dedicated to researching job candidates online, a number that has likely grown in the last two years. The research performed on candidates doesn’t stop at social posts. Half of employers look for a professional persona online that supports a candidate’s qualifications, 37% look for what other people say about candidates, and 24% actively look for reasons not to hire a candidate.
Background checks can be run by anyone
The internet is a storehouse of information. In addition to indexed content, anyone can run a background check online to find out even more information about you. That information can include the names of your relatives, roommates, phone numbers, email addresses, and additional social media accounts. They can use this information to find out more about who you are and what you’re involved in.
Prior to hiring you, employers will run several types of background checks. At a minimum, they’ll run a criminal background check and a federal employment background check. With your permission, a potential employer might run a credit check to see how responsible you are with your financial obligations. This is all presuming you’ve passed the internet searches and have been brought in for an interview.
What you can do about embarrassing content
If you search for your name and find embarrassing content, you have several options. First, contact the webmaster and ask them to remove the content. If that doesn’t work, contact the hosting provider and ask that your personal information be removed from the websites in question. If the content is being hosted on a discussion forum, contact the forum provider and ask that they censor or delete all posts with your personal information.
Removing old websites from archive.org
If you published a website many years ago that can still be found on the Way Back Machine, there are a couple of ways to get it removed. First, if you still own the domain name, you can create a robots.txt file that tells archive.org to delete all current and past archived copies of the site. If you don’t own the domain name, all you need to do is send a DMCA takedown notice to Archive.org asking for permanent removal.
Although archive.org has received several DMCA exemptions for archiving software, it is still a copyright violation for them to take snapshots of websites without permission. Many people have reported the site complies with DMCA takedown notices, so it’s worth putting in the effort.
What does the internet say about you?
Whatever the internet says about you is going to be your potential employer’s first impression of who you are. Even if what they find happened fifteen years ago, you probably won’t get a chance to explain yourself before getting passed up for the job.
The best way to combat a rocky internet past is to create a more professional online presence that shows up as current. Don’t hide your Facebook posts – make some of your more professional and uplifting posts public so that potential employers will see them. Create a LinkedIn account even if you don’t plan to use it.
You won’t be able to erase your entire online history, but creating a positive persona will help.