Money Talks, So Should You

Why you should do an online 'scrub' before a job search

It's an increasingly good time to find a job. The first step should be ensuring you don't sabotage yourself online.

Brian O'Connell
by Brian O'Connell, MainStreet contributor

With the U.S. unemployment rate down to 7.5 percent and the civilian workforce participation rate down to 63.3 percent, (down about 9.5 million since 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), U.S. job-seekers have less competition than they have faced at any time in the past four years.

READ: How are you perceived at work?

In fact, some job-seekers may find themselves in demand for the first time almost a half-decade. According to Robert Half International, some slivers of sunlight are indeed starting to shine on the U.S. job market:

  • There’s a “global war” for quality employees. Half says there will be “a shortfall of up to 18 million highly skilled workers in advanced economies, including the U.S., by 2020.
  • It’s tough finding good professional help. About 66 percent of global firms say they face recruiting challenges for specific job openings, up 14 percent two years ago.
  • More staffers are cutting ties with corporations. Approximately 2.2 million career professionals voluntarily left their jobs in February, an 18 percent upward spike from 2011, Half reports.
  • Companies are recruiting talent. Almost 20 percent of U.S. workers say they have been approached by a company or recruiter for posts they didn’t apply for or seek.

To take full advantage, career professionals seeking a job upgrade may want to pause, take a breath, and set the stage for a winning job search.

READ: Schools that get their grads the highest starter salaries

Item No. 1 in that strategy should be cleaning up your online persona before embarking on a job hunt.

According to Monster Worldwide, the Maynard, Mass., online job search behemoth, 73 percent of U.S. workers say it’s a great idea to “scrub” one’s online image before a job search. (The firm conducted a survey of 1,275 U.S. adults to find that number.)

“Hiring has always been done, at least in part, on the basis of reputation,” says Mary Ellen Slayter, a career advice expert for “These days, reputation is even more important because we all have the power to create our own public persona using the tools provided by the Internet and social platforms.”

Slayter advises being diligent in covering your tracks. “Be prepared and do some spring cleaning,” she says. “Use search engines to find out what comes up when you type in your name, and then actively work to build a strong professional image online. An important aspect to help you 'find better' is to keep your online resume up to date and freshen it up as you develop your skills.”

Also, eliminate embarrassing “party pictures” and delete controversial tweets or Facebook posts that could raise red flags with potential employers. Then cut obscenities, potentially offensive posts or political rants that could ruin your chances for a good job.

READ: Your next job will probably come via networking

The rule of thumb is this: If a post or photo could offend someone, delete it. It’s just not worth the risk on your job hunt.

A successful career search is all about raising the odds, not reducing them. Scrub your online image and make sure you’re working on the former, and not the latter.


Brian O’Connell has 15 years of experience covering business news and trends, particularly in the financial, health care and career management sectors. He has written 14 books and appeared on CNN, Fox News, CNBC, C-Span, Bloomberg, CBS Radio and other media outlets and in such publications as The Wall Street Journal and The He is a former Wall Street bond trader.