According to a recent Pew Research Center study, about 57% of adult internet users in the US admitted to putting their name into an online search engine such as Google or Bing. In 2006, the figure was 47%.
As the internet has evolved, so have ways to find out more about you. As mentioned,57% of internet users in the US say they have done an internet search on themselves. Per a recent Microsoft commissioned study,78% of potential employers have used an internet search engine to find out about potential employees. Social networking sites (Facebook, linkedin) and photo and video sharing sites (utube, flickr, etc) account for 63% and 57% respectively of how potential employers try to find out about you. I will note here that there are other ways as well but those just listed are the top 3. Personal websites, blogs, and online forums are some of the others.
What does this all mean? In today’s world, many employers record your at work computer activity. People have been fired from their jobs for going to porn, game, shopping, etc. sites deemed inappropriate. The keystrokes you do while on a computer at work can be tracked by your employer with the right keylogging software. Postings on Facebook where you complain about your job can get you fired. When you go for that new job, your online profile can and will be used against you if there is anything negative.
Just like you need to check your credit report before applying for a mortgage, you need to check your online reputation especially when searching for a job. If there is anything negative when you check, you need to clear it up. Although there are privacy settings in Facebook, you should treat anything that you post there as public information. This is due to the fact that Facebook has changed their online privacy policies where something once private is now public. What are your political beliefs? Your potential employer may have other political beliefs and may hold yours against you. There are various services that for a fee will improve your online reputation. The bad things may not be able to be cleared but they can be pushed further down on the search engine. As they say, do not post anything that you would not want your parents, spouse, children, etc. to find out about you. As an aside here, divorce attorneys are now using the internet (especially Facebook) to get information to assist their clients.