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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Job hunters perfecting their resumes for that dream job are being urged to also polish their online profile -- and clean it up if needs be, with a new breed of companies emerging to help mold Internet images.
Recruitment experts advise job hunters to Google themselves before stepping out into the competitive job market to see if a search pull ups that blog entry written about legalizing marijuana or drunken party photos with friends.
"The internet brings a new dimension to the application process. Sometimes it can work to your advantage, and sometimes to your disadvantage," employment Web site Careerbuilder.com spokeswoman Jennifer Sullivan told Reuters.
Various surveys have shown that employers are using online searches to check out potential candidates -- especially as some of the early Internet surfers become bosses themselves.
A study of 1,150 hiring managers by Careerbuilder.com found 26 percent of managers admitted to using search engines such as Google and 12 percent of managers said they used social networking sites like Facebook.com in their hiring process.
Those numbers may be low, but not the repercussions.
Of the 12 percent who checked social networking sites, 63 percent declined to hire an applicant based on what they found, citing lying about qualifications and criminal behavior as two of the top disqualifiers.
But with hiring managers and job seekers using new and different ways to stay one step ahead of each other, new technology has emerged to help both sides of the game.
For $10 a month, ReputationDefender.com will search your name everywhere -- even "beyond Google" -- including password-protected sites, and give a report of their findings.
For about $30 a month, clients can have them do a clean-up, which involves ensuring all links to, for example, a college kegstand on Facebook.com or a disparaging blog entry from a former partner, will not appear during an online search.
"More than half of my clients use us just to search and don't even ask us to clean anything up," the company's chief executive and founder Michael Fertik, 28, told Reuters.
Fertik, a graduate from Harvard Law School, said it's important for everyone to know how they're perceived online.
"Often pictures that are intrinsically innocuous get taken out of context, and then can become punitive," said Fertik.
PROS AND CONS TO ONLINE PROFILES
While ReputationDefender.com caters to individuals not employers, DefendMyName.com services both camps.
The two-year-old Portland, Maine-based company, a division of QED Media Group LLC, will conduct an online clean-up for any size client, from individuals to large corporations. Some clients are companies seeking positive brand image online.
Using proprietary technology, company founder Rob Russo said DefendMyName creates links to promotional sites and blogs on clients in order to bury negative search engine results.
"Online searching has taken on an essential role in the corporate world when people are scouting new employees. It is becoming an actual part of the hiring process along with a criminal background check," Russo told Reuters.
But it is not always to job seekers disadvantage that potential employers can check them out online.
The Careerbuilder.com study found 64 percent of hiring mangers had their hiring decision confirmed by information found online and 40 percent of managers said their decision was solidified by seeing that a candidate was "well rounded" and showed a wide range of interests."
Beth Murphy, an advertising assistant in New York, whose boss admitted to searching her profile on Facebook.com, said being scoped out online helped her land the job.
"In seeing my Facebook profile, they thought I seemed like a well-rounded person. They saw pictures of me doing service work in Africa immediately followed by pictures of me hanging out at a football tailgate," she told Reuters.