If you’ve somehow resisted the urge over the years to “ego surf” and look your name up on Google, or one of the other search engines, it’s high time to start — since this will be one of the FIRST steps that employers and recruiters will conduct when considering you as a potential job candidate!

Given the massive role that the Internet is now playing in the hiring process, in fact, virtually all professionals today are now forced to become much more conscious of their reputation out in cyberspace.  If a search on your name reveals some very positive articles, citations, and testimonials, for example, this is going to enhance your brand in a major way with potential employers.  And if the reverse is true, and somehow you’ve accumulated some negative or nefarious links in association with your name, you’ll want to be aware of this, too, so that you can take steps to minimize the damage!

As a starting point in evaluating your on-line presence, simply search on your full name in Google and print out the first few pages of results that come back.  If you have a fairly commonplace name, add an additional search keyword such as “Seattle” or the name of your last employer, since that’s what hiring managers will likely do when trying to find amongst all of the John and Jane Does out there.  Once you’ve succeeded at turning up the appropriate baseline results, ask yourself how the material you’ve come across would likely be viewed by a potential employer.  Is most of the material you’ve uncovered positive in nature?  If so, you’re in great shape and don’t have much to worry about.  And if your material is largely neutral, and consists mainly of harmless mentions of some of your personal and professional affiliations, you’re still in pretty good shape — although you might try to build a more positive set of links to your background in the months ahead, especially if you’re an executive, entrepreneur, independent consultant, or somebody else for whom “personal branding” is an important factor.

And should your Internet search result in the discovery of some unexpected “smoking guns” on the Internet, related to your background, you’ll want to immediately address this problem by researching various strategies for removing the unflattering information — or by possibly hiring a service such as ReputationDefender to take on this task for you.  Thankfully, however, there’s been a major development that is limiting the damage that this kind of bad news used to cause.  These days, if you sign up and create profiles on a lot of the common social networking websites, such as LinkedIn, your profiles on these sites will get picked up and given high rankings by many of the search engines — which will push the “damning data” down much farther in the result set, limiting its visibility.

Ultimately, for better or worse, we’re all going to have to pay more attention to managing our on-line reputations in the years ahead, because it’s hard to imagine this trend not becoming more and more significant in today’s wired world.  And who knows?  You might even be pleasantly surprised at where your name turns up!  When I searched on my own name in preparation for this article, in fact, I saw some great references to my company I didn’t even realize were out there — plus an article talking about how I apparently drove in a sacrifice fly three years ago (according to this site) to help the Concordia Cobbers take a 1-0 lead in a pivotal baseball game.  Go, me! :)