The NetRep trend has been hitting the headlines again and sweeping the world of recruitment, taking unsuspecting applicants by surprise. In today’s highly competitive job market, it is not just prospective candidates that are ‘Googling’ target employers before making decisions on whether or not to accept a new position.

In much the same way as you might research a potential employer following a job interview in case their digital reputation throws up any undesirable information, recruiters are now turning the tables. Increasingly recruitment decision-makers are checking out a candidates suitability based on their online reputation through ‘cyber vetting’ and ‘digging digital dirt’.

With so many of us involved in online social networking sites such as MySpace, YouTube, etc and with the current media fascination with Facebook, your NetRep is just as important, if not more so, than your employment references. Your virtual ‘references’ are just a few scary clicks away.

Managing your NetRep can be a concern, as highlighted by professional social networking site Viadeo in their promotional video that you can find posted on YouTube. Although a light-hearted account of the potential damage your online reputation can have on your future, the message is clear and the statistics speak for themselves:

• 1 in 5 recruiters have searched for and found personal information about a candidate on the web and 59% say that it has influenced their recruitment decisions.
• A quarter of HR decision-makers have rejected applicants based on information found online.

Included in the top ten turn-offs for employers are references to drug abuse, memberships to bizarre groups and forums, postings referring to wild nights out and video clips displaying nudity.

Recruiters do however need to be careful about using this virtual selection process, especially if an applicant can prove discrimination on the grounds of race or sexual orientation. As such they tend to stick with LinkedIn so gaining expert LinkedIn profile advice can often be very beneficial.

Make sure you take note of your privacy settings on Facebook. It’s very easy to hide from view your personal information and photographs. Also, make sure that when your friends tag you in their photos that these aren’t viewable either. It’s very easy to safeguard your online profile, but your personal online reputation is out there, whether you like it or not, so look after it.

Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing. Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865)