Many career coaches are encouraging job candidates to clean up their digital dirt. As the number of job seekers grows, so does the competition for each job. A minimal standard of simply removing your party pictures from Facebook or fixing a misrepresentation on your background check is no longer enough. Ensuring that your digital presence matches the image you are attempting to put forth in your interview is vital, as the first interview these days is often a digital one. So, as your interviewer meets your digital presence, how can you present him or her with a convincing, "Yes, I am the one you are looking for!"
Begin with dusting for your digital dirt:
- Search city and county records in the areas that you have resided in to find any charges or unpaid fines that may appear real or mistaken. Don't just get them paid or corrected, but inquire into how you can get them removed from the Internet.
- Pay to have a background check run on yourself. Ask your potential employers which vendor they use for background checks and call the vendor directly to get a personal copy of the report or pay to have one run for yourself. Then, work to remove any false items.
- Get a credit report run that includes all three reporting agencies. You are entitled to one free report each year.
- Check your personal or social media sites and remove all party pictures and other inappropriate material that you have posted or someone else has posted or tagged of you.
If you have something that shows up on any of these reports that is accurate, but incriminating--be prepared to address it early on in the application process. Own it, take responsibility for it, share what you have learned, how you have changed and move on. Do not let it be a surprise to the person screening applicants.
The bottom line: Employers expect that, at a minimum, candidates have their digital dirt cleaned up. They expect that today's candidates are savvy enough to rid their online presence of any hard and fast evidence of being unfit for employment due to bad judgment and unprofessional conduct. It is vital to understand that employers are not just looking for minimally qualified candidates; they are looking for low drama, low maintenance, and emotionally inexpensive employees that will work to get them results. Make sure that this is exactly the image you are presenting online.
Cy Wakeman is a dynamic keynote speaker advocating a revolutionary new approach to leadership. Her groundbreaking ideas are featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and www.SHRM.org . Her book, Reality-Based Leadership: Ditch the Drama, Restore Sanity to the Workplace, & Turn Excuses Into Results  (Jossey-Bass, 2010) is available for order at all major online book retailers. For more information, visit www.cywakeman.com .