Anyone whos looking for a job, in the marketing industry or otherwise, needs to be aware of an important new trend sweeping through the recruitment industry. Recruiters are now googling the names of candidates to check on their history and background. In years gone by we had to rely on references and other official documents submitted by the candidate with their CV, but now we can simply type their name into Google, or any other search engine, and see what comes up. These days many professionals have some kind of a ‘web reputation’. Their name can crop up anywhere online on social networking sites, newspaper reports, or on any site relating to past jobs, blogs, media releases or sporting pursuits.

As jet fighters leave a trail of vapour in the sky, many people are now leaving information trails on the internet, but sometimes they are trails of personal information they would prefer to hide. Recently at Talent2 we had an interesting example. We googled the name of a promising job candidate to find a newspaper report showing hed been convicted of cocaine possession. He also spent some time in jail. Not surprisingly the conviction was not included on the candidates resume and, even though he initially looked like the right man for the job, we felt it was in our client’s best interest to not put him forward for the role. Rewind back a few years though – before the growth of the internet – and he probably would have got the job. In another recent case, a candidate was knocked back after we found evidence of a gambling addiction.

Many recruiters and employers are now searching the internet for more inside information on potential candidates. We are not doing this because we are being nosey or attempting to be moral arbiters, but simply because we feel that it’s appropriate to use whatever research tools we can to make sure we recruit the best people. The fact is that we live in a very public world today and everything we do may be recorded, whether we like it or not. There are now many websites specifically designed to hunt down information on people. Phone numbers, home addresses, criminal records, bankruptcies – we are often surprised at the depth and detail of personal information that we stumble upon online. For this reason all job seekers need to be aware of this, and they should all do what they can to limit any negative online exposure. Be especially careful with photos. Weve found several party photos of potential candidates that certainly didnt do their job prospects any favours. Make efforts to remove any party photos, especially from easily accessible social networking sites. Obviously theres not much you can do about adverse newspaper reports with your name in them, but there are sometimes ways you can contact other website hosts to ask them to remove any web pages you may not like. Some civil libertarians are calling for new laws that will allow people to do this with no questions asked.

Recruiters realise that we need to be cautious when using the internet to form an opinion of an applicant. Theres significant information online that is false, or comes from sources that have little or no credibility. And, of course, there are many occasions where people may have the same name as the candidate. So we dont always respond to negative web listings, but we do incorporate them into our decision-making mix.

Recruiters are also aware of some of the privacy considerations involved. The Privacy Commissioner says no complaints have been received from job applicants about recruiters or employers checking their backgrounds online. But the Federal Government is currently looking into privacy protection in Australia. The Australian Law Reform Commission’s report, due in March 2008, is expected to address the issue.

But it’s not all bad news for job seekers. It’s important to note too that our new research technique can also yield some benefits for them. We recently googled the name of one applicant to find some information on his blog that we thought made him more suited to the marketing position he had applied for. The blog helped illustrate his past work experience, and it was directly related to the job on offer. We forwarded our client the blog, and they had no hesitation in giving him the job. We have also googled several candidates to find that they had some interesting general life experience that greatly impressed the client. So, if you are in the job market, consider creating a blog to showcase your skills and experience, because there’s a decent chance recruiters and employers will read it. Happy job hunting!