Posted by Jacqueline Beauchere, Chief Online Safety Officer, Microsoft

Almost 46 percent of Internet users are going online to find a job, according to recent data.  That total nearly doubles when it comes to hiring managers using the Internet to screen prospective candidates. 

Increasingly, such statistics, coupled with conversations about online reputation – like the one at last week’s 2013 FOSI European Forum – continue to show that in today’s digital world, online information is just as important as an individual’s past employment history. 

Held in Dublin and sponsored by The Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), last week’s event brought together some 150 representatives from government, including Frances Fitzgerald, the Irish Minister for Children and Youth Affairs; industry leaders from companies such as Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter the education sector, civil society, and the advocacy community to discuss, “The Year of the Digital Citizen:  Online Safety, Data Protection, and Privacy.”

It was a question and comment from an audience member that sparked additional conversation, and  underscored for me and others the ongoing need to attentively safeguard one’s digital reputation.

Microsoft examined the question of online reputation closely in depth in 2010.  At the time, we released what was then considered by many as ground-breaking research:  we spoke to recruiters and hiring managers, as well as consumers, in five countries, asking them about the impact of individuals’ social media profiles on potential hiring.  Others have since followed suit with similar research.  We routinely counsel teens and adults alike to think before uploading photos or videos with even the slightest hint of questionable or unflattering content; to walk away from their keyboards before responding to a “flame,” and to exercise the same care and consideration for their posts, photos, and videos that mention or feature others.  In turn, we do our level best to help people of all ages and abilities better protect their personal information, and understand how to best manage the information that circulates about them online. 

Here are some quick tips to help protect and manage your Online Reputation:

From time to time, conduct your own “reputation report” 

• Search all variations of your name via multiple search engines.

Evaluate whether the results reflect the reputation you’d like to share with the world

• If the information is inaccurate or less favorable, respectfully request that the person who posted the content remove it or correct an error.  If he or she won’t, contact the hosting site’s administrator.

Consider separating your professional and personal profiles
• Remember that your image online can be a determining factor for hiring managers and application reviewers.  Be sure to use different e-mail addresses, screen names, referring blogs, and websites for each profile; avoid cross-referencing to personal sites.

Adjust your privacy settings
• In Internet browsers, social networking sites, personal blogs and other places where you maintain personal data, use privacy settings to help manage who can see your profile or photos; how people can search for you; who can comment, and how to block unwanted access. 

Think before you share

• Consider what you post, particularly personal photos and videos; who you share information with, and how it might reflect on your reputation.  Let others know what you do and do not want shared.

Be a good digital citizen

• Be respectful of those with whom you engage directly.  It reflects on both you and them, and becomes engrained in your respective online reputations.

The more proactively you manage your information online, the more opportunities you will have to ensure your online reputation if one of which you can be proud.  For additional guidance, regularly check our Safety & Security Center, where all of our tools and materials are housed. “Like” our page on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter