Colleges Help Their Students Clean Up Online Search Results

Employers are increasingly going further than just verifying resumes when it comes to researching promising job candidates. With the growth of social media hubs like Twitter and Facebook, many are looking to see if those supposedly private places reveal anything negative about potential employees. That is why a growing number of colleges are now making an effort to help students to scrub their online presence of as much negative information as possible.

An initiative at Syracuse University helped Samantha Grossman, a recent graduate, when it came time for her to look for jobs. Grossman is a common name, so a lot of unsavory information – much of it about a different Samantha entirely – would pop up in searches. Now, thanks to a tool made available by the college, what people see first is a professional photograph as well as a list of achievements, including cum laude graduation honors.

Syracuse, Rochester and Johns Hopkins in Baltimore are among the universities that offer such online tools to their students free of charge, realizing ill-considered Web profiles of drunken frat parties, prank videos and worse can doom graduates to a lifetime of unemployment – even if the pages are somebody else's with the same name.

A problem like Grossman's is particularly acute in light of recent research that shows employers turning to Google to vet potential hires more often, with many not bothering to go much beyond the front page of search results. As anyone who has been on the internet for some time knows, removing bad things from the web is difficult, so the function of the scrub tools is to push them as far down the result set as possible.

"These students have been comfortable with the intimate details of their lives on display since birth," said Lisa Severy, president-elect of the National Career Development Association and director of career services at the University of Colorado-Boulder, which does not offer the service.

"The first item on our ‘five things to do before you graduate' list is ‘clean up your online profile,'" she said. "We call it the grandma test – if you don't want her to see it, you probably don't want an employer to, either."

Syracuse, like many other schools, retains the services of BrandYourself, a startup that provides students with the means to make themselves look better on the web. The idea was born after one of the founders – Pete Kistler – found himself unable to land any interviews after graduation because he shared a name with a drug dealer.

01 3, 2013
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