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My Online Alter Ego Is Ruining My Good Name. Help!

Dear Evil HR Lady, I've heard that checking a candidate's online reputation is common these days. Although my name is uncommon, at least three other people share it, and they're quite different from me. Where the name appears with identifying information -- address and phone number -- that's about all there is. The juicier stuff appears without identifying information or pictures. One of us might be someone you wouldn't want to hire. Is it me? How does anyone know? If I keep a clean online reputation, how do I assure I'm not tarred with someone else's brush? Oh boy, does your online profile matter. A Microsoft study showed that 70 percent of hiring managers have rejected candidates because of what they found on line. It's not all bad news, though. 85 percent said they were influenced by positive online information. Whew.

Of course the problem with researching a candidate online is that you can't be sure of who the person is. Sure, the names may match, but that's where the similarities will end. If you Google my name, results that are actually about me (and not some other Suzanne Lucas) usually show up in the number 1 or 2 spot. I alternate back and forth with another Suzanne Lucas who is a professional Rolfer.

Fortunately for me (and her), our careers are sufficiently different that I wouldn't want to work for a company who Googled my name and concluded that I Rolf in my spare time. Also, fortunately for both of us, neither one of us believes in posting pictures of ourselves in Daisy Duke shorts smoking unknown substances. (This is especially fortunate for the other Suzanne Lucas, as it would frighten her customers if such a picture of me existed.)

You, however, appear not to be so fortunate. BNET's Dan Schawbel gave some good advice on how to own your Google results. But, when you have a similarly named person who is not using discretion, you need to take additional action.

Here are a few ideas for dealing with unsavory name sharers:

  • Include a link to your LinkedIn profile on your resume. That way potential managers don't look at the wrong person's profile.
  • Put a professional picture up on LinkedIn as well, so when the hiring manager or recruiter is looking at the blond girl chugging something on Myspace, they'll know that you have dark hair and glasses, so it couldn't be you. (If posting a photo makes you uncomfortable, don't feel you have to do this. But if you're concerned about being mistaken for someone unsavory, it might help.)
  • Mention in the interview/phone screen that, "Ha, ha, isn't it funny, but there's someone else with my name who has no sense!"
  • Don't worry about it. Chances are, everyone involved will be smart enough to differentiate between you and your unwise namesake. After all, when you can't do anything about a problem, it's wise to let it go.
Illustration by didbygraham, Flickr, CC 2.0
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