An April survey of 2,000 hiring managers from CareerBuilder found nearly two in five companies use social networking sites to research job candidates, and 11 percent said they planned to start. A third of the hiring managers who said they research candidates reported finding something like a provocative photo or evidence of drinking or drug use that cost the candidate a job.
"We want our students and alumni actively involved in shaping their online presence," said Johns Hopkins Career Center Director Mark Presnell. Students are encouraged to promote positive, professional content that's easily found by employers, he said.
BrandYourself works by analyzing search terms in a user's online profile to determine, for example, that a LinkedIn account might rank 25th on Google searches of the user's name. The program then suggests ways to boost that ranking. The software also provides alerts when an unidentified result appears on a user's first page or if any links rise or fall significantly in rank.
Nati Katz, a public relations strategist, views his presence online as a kind of virtual storefront that he began carefully tending while in graduate school at Syracuse.
Google his name and up pops his LinkedIn page with a listing of the jobs he's held in digital media and the "500+ connections" badge of honor. His Facebook account is adorned with Katz smiling over an elegant Thanksgiving dinner table. There are a couple of professional profiles and his Tumblr link, one after another on the first page of results and all highlighting his professional experience.
Before his 2011 graduation, he took the university up on its offer of the BrandYourself account and said it gave him a leg up with potential employers and internship supervisors.
"Fortunately, I didn't have to deal with anything negative under my profile," said Katz, who used the reputation website BrandYourself.com while pursuing dual degrees in public relations and international affairs. "What I was trying to form was really a nice, clean, neat page, very professional."