Background Checks in the Digital Age

What happens when you type your name into Google? I’m asking because every potential employer or client these days is going to type your name into a search engine — and they may just search for you on Facebook or LinkedIn as well. We’ve all heard horror stories about the recent college grads with photos of some outrageous parties on their social networking profile, but that’s not the only thing you should keep a lid on — especially when you know someone’s searching for you.

I work with a lot of clients that I never meet in person. The first thing I do whenever I get a potential client’s name is type it into Google. I assume they do the exact same thing. I’ve been surprised by some of the things I’ve seen: a client who came off as very professional had plenty of hits for a blog on what I would consider a less-than-professional topic. That sort of thing doesn’t necessarily turn me off of a client (although I do take a few extra steps if I’m worried about his professionalism). But a client or even a full-time employer might have the same sort of response to my search results. After all, Google is the modern background check — why pay a private eye when everything about you is available online?

I want my clients to think well of me from the start, so I think before I post something online — whether or not it’s for pay. And yes, I play the occasional online game or participate in the occasional non-professional forum. I’ve just started using a different set of logins for the stuff that I don’t want associated with my professional online persona.


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  4. Fiona   •  

    A timely reminder, thank you!

  5. Rod   •  

    Good advice. Although I would add that you should ensure you’re associating search results with the correct person. If you search on my name (Rodney Smith) you’ll come up with loads of results that identify me variously as an academic, photographer, mass murderer, etc. And perhaps you’ll also find the one that tells you I’m a blogger and designer of software and websites… 😉

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