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how the net is transforming the way we work and earn

Is Google hampering your chances of getting a job? July 22, 2008

I discovered some interesting things about myself the other day. It turns out that I am 21 years old and come from a city in Virginia called Chesapeake. I also seem to have a fetish for books to do with Wicca and am the Senior Marketing Coordinator at HTC. Who knew? I certainly didn’t.

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That’s why when faced with self-doubt or a mild existential crisis it is best to look no further than Google. Yes, I unashamedly Googled myself. It took only 0.27 seconds and produced 2, 280 results for “Nicole Hyman” – aren’t I lucky? And some of the results were just too amusing, like this one:

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Ask the Magic 8 Ball

Will Nicole Hyman ever go out with Dillon Campbell? yes or No? Will Jessica Pupu have the same lunch as Lauren Kellers & Nicole Hyman in sixth grade?
m8ball.nicksoft.info/index.php?answer=114212 – 18k –

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Well, it seems that neither I nor the magic 8 ball are certain whether Nicole Hyman will go out with Dillon Campbell. I have never heard of a Dillon Campbell and the Magic 8 ball had this to say when I clicked on the link: You were very bad and the Ball is mad at you.

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While this is very amusing a part of me wishes I could copyright my name. I can see it now, with one simple symbol © I would be safe from the empty riff-raff intent on hi-jacking my brand. I would own my own identity.

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Impractical, I know. But you must understand, it feels as though someone has stolen my identity. For I am not 21 years old , don’t live in Virginia and have no interest in Wicca and yet these individuals all go by the name Nicole Hyman, or at least Google says they do.

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And before you jump to conclusions, the two month break from this blog has not muddled my mind and I haven’t forgotten the topic of my blog. Identity theft and your online behaviour can severely impact on your ability to get a job.

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Think about it. You apply for your dream job with what you think is a flawless CV. You go for an interview. And while that may go well, your future employer may want to know a little more about you. About the ‘real’ you.

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And so they turn to one of the many search engines. And be afraid, because there are search engines designed specifically to search for people like Wink , Pipl and Spock. This doesn’t only lend itself to your identity being stolen but also means that you can be defamed. Last year, blogger John Aravosis was accidentally tagged on Spock as being a paedophile because of a blog post he wrote about Congressman Mark Foley.

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But it doesn’t end there. Have you ever thought that your future employers might decide to look you up on Facebook? That is, after all a perfect way to do a quick background check on a person and their online lives. For a second ignore any questionable photos or messages you have been meaning to delete from your profile page.

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Imagine that someone registered on Facebook under your name. That they then went to the trouble of finding a picture of you somewhere online , oh believe me these are available , and then used this picture as their profile picture. Is there anything to stop them?

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This actually happed to a to Mirror writer, Samer Elatrash. The fake profile which was set up under Elatrash’s name made all sorts of false and potentially damaging claims about him including adding a Facebook status which read: Samer is in hiding because Yoni Petel has sent the Israeli Mossad to terminate him. Facebook eventually did shut this imposter’s profile down. But the damage had already been down with the imposter Elatrash adding many people as ‘friends’ on Facebook.

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Then there is the case of a top Yale Law graduate who struggled to get a job because of defamatory comments posted about her on an online forum called AutoAdmit. Another Yale graduate discovered that the forum featured her name and a discussion of her breasts. According to a December survey by the Ponemon Institute,

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Roughly half of U.S. hiring officials use the Internet in vetting job applications. About one-third of the searches yielded content used to deny a job.

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So, as I have discovered online identity is such a precarious thing. And while there are services to help protect it, like Reputation Defender , it never really belongs to you. There is nothing to stop someone commenting on a forum or blog using your name and tarnishing your reputation in the process. That’s why you should Google yourself as habitually as you brush your teeth. Or at the very least, do so before you go for a job interview.

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