According to a survey conducted by CareerBuilder, one in four managers used search engines to screen job candidates, and more than a third have eliminated a candidate based on the information they found. This data could give you pause if you're a MySpacer who has some less-than-savory information on your web site.
It may not seem fair, but I would think an IT manager who googles you (to look for information not on your resume) may just be scared away by a picture of you showing off your full-body tatoo as your pet boa constrictor looks on. And if you list "stalking" as a hobby, it may also give him pause.
If that's not scary enough, think if there is someone out there with your name tsullying the google waters for you. That's a tough one to handle, unless you mention it on your resume, e.g., "Note: I am not the John Doe who lives in a mountain shack and writes conspiracy propaganda." But that denial alone could weird an HR manager out.
I decided to google myself to get an idea of what an objective third party might dig up. Fortunately for me, there's a woman out there with my name who is on the faculty of the English department at the University of Pennsylvania and who has written a book called The Politics of Motherhood. One review says, "Toni Bowers examines the eighteenth-century struggle to develop new ideals for virtuous womanhood." Well, you go girl! Now I have to ask myself if I have the moral fortitude not to cop to that achievement.
While you can make the argument that your personal life should be kept separate from your private life, that may not always be possible. People are people, after all, and hiring is a subjective process. I will blog about this in the TechManager blog and ask how many of the IT managers in our audience admit to screening job candidates by search engine.
Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.