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Repairing / Establishing Online Reputation? 564

illini1022 writes "I'm currently a senior nearing graduation from college. With studies focusing on power and energy I believe I have set myself up extremely well for post-graduation employment. I have one concern. The top search result on Google for my full name is a blog posting regarding an article about a pedophile that happens to bear the same name as myself. The blog also originates from a city I lived in during one summer (specified on my resume). Upon closer inspection, it would become quickly apparent that the subject in question is not me. The person of interest was in the military, and I have never been. However, I fear this unfortunate coincidence might cost me chances at employment with companies I'm now applying to. I have absolutely no issue with any employer finding anything I've put on the Internet; I have been careful to protect my reputation. My concern is with an employer mistaking me for someone else, and disqualifying me from recruitment. I've attempted to contact the blog owner to no avail. What are my options? Am I overreacting? Should I attempt to set up my own site that would steal the top Google search from this blog posting? I appreciate any insight/advice."
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Repairing / Establishing Online Reputation?

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  • by Shadow Wrought ( 586631 ) * <shadow...wrought@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @03:07PM (#26891125) Homepage Journal
    90% of the applicants are going to call to verify that HR got their app. How many are to call to clarify that they are not in fact the pedophile of the same name. If nothing else you know they'll look at your resume after that!
  • FTFY (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ChienAndalu ( 1293930 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @03:08PM (#26891149)

    Submit a story to Slashdot that reads

    "Hello, my name is $REALNAME, and I'm currently a senior nearing graduation..."

  • by bennomatic ( 691188 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @03:12PM (#26891243) Homepage
    Unless your name is really unusual and/or the town in question is teeny-tiny, most recruiters would first consider that it's a coincidence and, if they felt it necessary, they'd check further with regards to it, and probably communicate with you on the process.

    These days, most big organizations require a background check anyway, and if the person in the blog had been convicted, that would show up in the record. Of course, if they weren't convicted, or if they were a minor at the time, the blogger might have to remove their post, as there may be legal repercussions for posting potentially libelous commentary and/or information about a minor which may be protected.
  • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @03:19PM (#26891369)

    I believe that in most cases the prospective employer farms out the task to a third party. Anything really worthwhile would require verification via court files anyways. And most of the time they really don't want the added liabilities of knowing anything beyond what they really need. The screeners typically give just the information that they need to make a decision.

    But most of the time you have to agree to the background check or forgo the opportunity for consideration.

    Whether or not it's illegal really depends upon the jurisdictions involved.

  • background checks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bugi ( 8479 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @03:23PM (#26891455)

    At least one commercial background checker uses a herd of part time hires, who are evaluated primarily on volume. The incentive is wrong for evaluating exceptional cases like yours, so I wouldn't trust that were I in your shoes.

    As another poster pointed out, that's a good excuse to call HR.

  • Re:FTFY (Score:3, Interesting)

    by illini1022 ( 1480073 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @03:26PM (#26891507)
    I was seriously considering that, for all I know it would make the other page more popular as well. The internet is tricky sometimes.
  • Re:FTFY (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ChienAndalu ( 1293930 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @03:38PM (#26891731)

    In general, you can use the nofollow [wikipedia.org]-attribute for cases like these.

    But there is no guarantee that commenters or potential bloggers that might pick up this story would use it too, so I see your point.

  • Adwords! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AlHunt ( 982887 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @03:53PM (#26892017) Homepage Journal

    Go here:
    https://adwords.google.com/select/TrafficEstimatorSandbox [google.com]
    Buy your name in quotations as Adwords so your own website will appear every time someone searches you out. Keep it up while you job search.

  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @03:56PM (#26892097)

    Any employer that would disqualify you soley based on blog postings from a Google search is not a place where you want to work.

    Reading this, I couldn't help but think what Google uses to do background checks on their potential employees. Does Google Google?

  • Re:Short answer (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Zerth ( 26112 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @04:04PM (#26892271)

    Not necessarily. I have a not-very common name, yet there is one person with a similar name who lived where I was born. My family left there before I could walk, several years before he lived there. He, of course, has a different SSN and is way older than me. He also committed a few crimes when I was 14(and hadn't lived in that state for over a decade).

    This occasionally showed up on badly done backgrounds checks when I was younger.

    I lost a summer job in college because of this and it was especially annoying as the report had his age and SSN, but the yoink in HR, who couldn't tell the difference between an ID that had "Under 21" stamped on it and someone old enough to run for president, voided my paperwork before talking to my boss. On the plus side, I got paid four weeks for 3 days of work.

    On the down side, FSM help me if Homeland Security were to accidently hit page-down when looking up my file.

  • Re:Short answer (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JWSmythe ( 446288 ) * <jwsmythe@jwsmy[ ].com ['the' in gap]> on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @04:08PM (#26892367) Homepage Journal

        The one I usually hear is "You would be perfect here. We need everything you know. We just can't afford you. We hate to insult you by asking this, but will you work for $20k/yr?"

        I wouldn't worry that an employer may or may not find something in my history, or the history of someone with my name. I'd worry that there's an employer hiring.

        I personally know dozens of people who have been laid off recently because their businesses are doing poorly. I can't think of anyone who's started a new job in quite a while. Now even my friends are my competition if I need to start looking for a job.

  • Re:Short answer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mapsjanhere ( 1130359 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @04:19PM (#26892619)
    Few comments on this:
    1) The poster is a college graduate, he competes with hundreds of nominal equal qualification
    2) the trick is not making it past the interview, the trick is making it to the interview
    3) Employers will probably interview less than 10% of the applicants
    4) 90% of applications don't make it past initial vetting
    5) Initial vetting will contain required skill set, anything extraordinary positive, any potential downside
    The latter is huge if you're competing with a crowd. Googling the applicant is part of due diligence now, and, unlike e.g. credit check, leaves no trace and doesn't require permission. Which is why he should really try hard to get this either removed, or if needed, try to play google ranking and move something else to the top. Similarly, I never understand why people need to point out things like "active in boy scouts, NAACP, KKK, AARP, League of Woman Voters, PETA, Knights of Columbus or AUSSC"; the potential for positive recognition is so much less than the potential for conflict, either with the HR person himself due to bias or because the HR person knows his or her work force.
    And no, you will never be able to prove that, your "thank you for your application" letter will always have a "decided on a person with qualifications more suitable for the position".
  • Re:Short answer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @04:19PM (#26892641) Journal

    >>>what they can legally do and what they do do are two different things.

    True. I saw an ad in the paper for a local company that was hiring for ~15 different tech, engineer, and programming jobs. I called the phone number and asked how to submit my resume by Email and they said, "Sorry. We're not accepting resumes at this time."

    "Oh. But you have this ad in the paper. Aren't you hiring?"
    "Yes we're hiring but we're not accepting resumes."
    "I'm sorry sir but we're not accepting resumes at this time."
    "'kay thanks. Goodbye."

    I've heard two reasons for companies doing this. (1) Is to help boost stocks by convincing investors the company is growing, even though it's not actually hiring anybody. (2) To claim they searched for U.S. candidates, could not find any, therefore they need to import cheap labor from China or India. Whichever one it is, it was obvious I wasn't getting the job even though I'm only 30 minutes away from the factory.

  • MOD PARENT UP (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wizzy403 ( 303479 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @04:28PM (#26892801)

    Oh for the want of modpoints...

  • Re:Short answer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @04:31PM (#26892859) Journal

    Yeah the sounds just great. Now here's the reality I observed while visiting Compaq Corporation in Houston:

    - 3 HR ladies, and about 5000 resumes piled on the floor.
    - They rapidly read each resume, perhaps 30 seconds each.
    - Good resumes were carefully stacked.
    - Bad resumes got a giant X marker and tossed into a large trashcan.

    Round 2:
    - When they were done, they went through the good candidates, maybe 500 total.
    - Once again bad candidates got X'd and tossed.
    - Eventually after a full afternoon's work, they narrowed it down to around 50 resumes.

    There wasn't a deep background investigation or any of that other nonsense. It was just a quick review of qualifications. Google didn't yet exist back then (2000) but if it did, I bet a VERY quick google search for any "redflags" would have been performed during round two, and even the slightest hint of negativity would mean getting an "X" and tossed in the trash.

  • Re:Short answer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @04:48PM (#26893167)

    And is it just me, or is it common practice that HR in most companies is staffed with the "unfirables" that no other department wanted? Owner's spouse or relatives, owner's ex-spouse with Clauses In The Divorce Papers, owner's golfing buddy who happens to have Pictures Of People Doing Stuff, owner's fling-on-the-side, owner's child-by-fling-on-the-side, etc - that if they had enough technical clue to understand concepts like "name collision" they probably wouldn't be in HR?

    Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that the economy started falling apart shortly after HR departments staffed with idiots became the norm?

  • by pbhj ( 607776 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @04:50PM (#26893197) Homepage Journal

    For example, if your name is "John Gordon Rivers" then just call yourself "Gordon Rivers" on your resume, cover letter, cv, etc. They won't need to know your real first name until you start to fill out the formal paperwork [...]

    So they find someone with your name, who was at your town when you were and was accused of pedophilia & they know you tried to hide your real name. Somehow, I don't think that will help.

  • Re:Short answer (Score:3, Interesting)

    by IndustrialComplex ( 975015 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @04:53PM (#26893243)

    Let's say you're correct and they do use it. How do you prove it? They can always find a reason not to hire you. My favourite: your skills don't match.

    I've had that happen, even within my current company.

    Example: I've worked on widget X for 5 years, the job posting was looking for people with 5 years experience, at least 50% of which was on widget X or similar technologies.

    I applied for the position and was denied with a nearly automated response: "Related work experience insufficient." Within the same company. After discussions with management and my HR, and reviewing my resume, they came to the conclusion "They probably had someone pre-picked for the job and just posted the position because its policy".

    (I'm about to take a new job because someone actively sought me out because of my reputation with widget x, but getting that first denial code was pretty infuriating)

  • Middle Initial (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kninja ( 121603 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @05:18PM (#26893663)

    I would also mod Parent up.

    Use your middle initial, or even your middle name to try and differentiate yourself.

    You also may be able to just omit the city, if the position was at a well-known company, or a company that is easily findable on google.

  • Re:Short answer (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dragonard ( 261270 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @05:47PM (#26894143) Homepage

    ...or even better: use your middle initial as part of your name on your resume. That will cast some doubt in (most) HR minds about just who they're dealing with it.

  • by Walkingshark ( 711886 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @06:11PM (#26894535) Homepage

    I've thought about this, and considered buying my name as an adword once I seriously start job hunting, with a link to my 'official site' and explanations of various other common search results for my name. Especially since I have a relatively uncommon name, and I often post under my real name, there is a lot of stuff out there with my name on it that might freak out weak minded people who are thinking about hiring me. I'm guessing that holding their hands and walking them through the idea that a person's life on the internet has nothing to do with their job performance is going to be a bigger challenge than sifting through all the fake job postings that companies put up so they can hire H1Bs.

  • Re:Short answer (Score:2, Interesting)

    by lostguru ( 987112 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @06:17PM (#26894625) Homepage
    Almost every application for employment that I've filled out has required past legal names. I think it would probably end up looking worse if he tried to change his name and they googled the old one and found what he's worried they'll find.
  • Problem solved (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Hao Wu ( 652581 ) on Tuesday February 17, 2009 @08:16PM (#26896189) Homepage
    define:affidavit [google.com]

    How to Write an Affidavit [ehow.com]

    Write out the situation like you explained it to us, but use formal language.

    Keep it under one page. Have it notarized. Attach a copy with every resume.

    Any other issues we can help you with? Are you brushing your teeth enough? :-)
  • by societyofrobots ( 1396043 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @01:02AM (#26898573)

    HR should be told to not use Google for a background check. Too many false positives.

    A search on my name reveals:
    -book writers
    -not so great software by my name
    -badly designed webpages with my name on it
    -several facebook accounts with embarrassing pics that aren't mine
    -an Enron exec that got arrested
    -linkedin account that isn't mine

    Many of these can easily be confused with me, but aren't me. Poetry major turned HR lady wouldn't be able to tell . . .

  • by Brian Ribbon ( 986353 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2009 @08:57AM (#26900793) Journal

    If the blogger does not clarify which [whatever your name is] he or she is blogging about, the blog post could be potentially slanderous. As someone who has followed anti-paedophile blogs closely, I may be able to help with identifying the blogger who potentially slandered you.

    Feel free to contact me at blribbon at fastmail dot fm, with a link to the blog post in question.

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