If your Facebook page includes a picture of you with a beer bottle in your hand or spouts off that you enjoy sitting in your underwear watching TV, you might want to re-evaluate your online reputation.
Seventy-nine percent of U.S. hiring managers routinely review online reputational information when considering job applicants, according to a recent study by Microsoft. Of those that do research, 70 percent admitted to rejecting a candidate based on what they found online.
The biggest reasons for rejection: inappropriate comments, photos and videos.
To clean up your image, the first thing to do is to hit the search engines to find out what's out there.
Once you know what’s out on the Internet, you can try polishing your image. But Microsoft’s Adam Hecktman cautions that it can be difficult. Profiles can be de-activated and pages taken down, but once something is on the Internet, it usually stays there.
"The rule of thumb is that what you put out there is there forever," said Hecktman.
Experts also caution social networkers about putting too much personal information online. All the major social networking sites have been targeted by hackers looking for names, addresses and birthdates that can be used for identity theft.
Privacy controls should be used to hide that information or it should be left off profiles entirely.
Hecktman said users should apply some common sense about what they share on social media sites like Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn.
If you want to appear professional to a prospective employer, confine your posts to job-related material.
Fifty percent of employers who hired a candidate after screening them online said they did so because their profile provided a good feel for the candidate's personality and fit, a Harris Interactive study showed.
Another route, Hecktman said, is to consider creating two profiles for each service: one for your professional life and another for your private life.