Ok, you’ve already Googled your own name a few times and laughed at some of the things people with your name (henceforth called your “doppelgangers”) have done. Now, while you know what you’ve done in your online life, a hiring manager or HR person could easily mistake these doppelgangers for you while doing a background check prior to a job offer. With that in mind the following is a list of tips and resources to check out just what can be found out about you or any of your doppelgangers and how to boost your online presence at the same time.
Google is the first and most obvious place to start. I typed in my name and straight away found two comedians: Rick Byrne and Richard Byrne. There’s also another Richard Byrne, a professor of sociology at the University of St Andrews who has published many books on primate psychologist. Nor am I likely to be mistaken for the Richard Byrne, the Martial Arts Grand Master.
You might think “so what?” Well, I certainly hope a HR person wouldn’t think I was this Ricky Byrne. It’s good to know about what’s out there and to combat potentially being mistaken for all these other Rick/RIchard Byrnes I send people my email address (based on my site’s URL), my site’s URL, my LinkedIn profile as well as my cell phone number as the signature of all my emails. This cuts out the possibility of people having to track me down online by directing them specifically to the sites I can control.
2. CHECK VARIATIONS OF YOUR URL
I focus on my ByrneCommunications.com URL as sometimes people looking for me often end up on RickByrne.com which shows some guy stroking an Alligator. Ok, I’m probably not going to be mistaken for him but I have been mistaken for another designer also named Richard Byrne. One Creative Director thought he was me and had very negative comments about the work on his website. As a result I created as much distinction as possible from his website. I’ve taken the same approach to dealing with Byrne Communications Inc., a small marketing agency in New York. Not only will a distinctive look help with this problem but also making sure that all emails have your site’s URL in the signature so people don’t have to google you to find it.
Make sure your LinkedIn Profile is up to date and has a photo so that you can be discerned from all the other people with the same name. LinkedIn’s ability to show your contacts is also likely to point to the right ”you” too. Get involved with the discussion groups that are specific for your industry (or segment of your industry). This will put you in direct contact with peers in a format that gives you a chance to shine by commenting or providing insight.
For more details see my posting on LinkedIn here.
On Facebook I remove all personal details and set everything in the privacy settings to “friends only” for security reasons. A genuine friend looking for me will know it’s me specifically from my name and photo alone. Put up a photo you’d like HR/hiring managers to see – I’d rather be found as me than this guy who may be too old for positions I might be applying to. I also know someone who deliberately has a false name on their Facebook profile so that no one from their professional world will find them there. Also keep posting things to your page to push it higher up in the Search Results.
I did a search for myself using my legal name and home town on intelius.com. There I was – or so I thought. It turns out that there is someone with the same name (including the same middle name) liveing just a few blocks away. Armed with these details you can actually physically locate your doppelgangers which is relevant for the next point…
6. CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS
Check for any accidental attributions of crime to you by running your name through any of these sites (http://www.criminalsearches.com, http://mybackgroundcheck.com and http://www.peoplefinders.com) just in case a doppelganger of yours is out there breaking the law. I found another Rick Byrne with lots of traffic violations – luckily in another state but what if he had been in the same State/County? Would a HR/hiring manager take the time to check that it wasn’t the same person if the incident was in a town I had worked in previously?
You might think “so what” but I am a little sensitive because at a previous address the IRS mistook me for another person with the same name who lived on the same 12 mile long road. They probably thought ‘how could there be two people with the same name on the same road?’ and promptly sent me the bill for THEIR tax arrears. If I hadn’t found out about it and cleared it up the IRS could have really blighted my credit rating. I also found another Rick Byrne in a different town who had traffic violations and there it all was online.
Yasni provides a composite of information from a number of sources including Wikipedia, Amazon, LinkedIn, NamesDatabase, MySpace, Friendster, Jigsaw, Vox, jobster, IMDb, Google News and blog search, Bloglines, Find a Grave and many more. I was amazed at some of things that turned up here but not in a Google search such as old webpages from my website that I thought were down, my birthday and book wishlist (both on Amazon – see below) photos of me (one from Facebook and one from LinkedIn). The site is not comprehensive but seems to be getting increasingly popular as companion to a Google search.
8. ONLINE COMMENTS
Comments on Hulu.com, TV.com and similar websites can easily be found in a search as can reviews on Amazon.com so be careful what you say. Check these sites for comments under your name – again just in case there is someone else out there. If you find a topic you can excel in keep track of it through BackType.
Check out photos of you on Facebook, Flickr, Photobucket, KodakGallery.com or similar photo sites. Click “remove tag” from the ones you might deem inappropriate for a someone thinking of hiring you to find. Check your name in Google Images to just to see what you find. If undesirable images are found you may be able to contact the site to have them removed. When uploading photos make sure your name is not in the title if you don’t want them to be found by search engines and vice versa.
The good thing about writing reviews on Amazon is that you can target specific books, perhaps career related and display your “thought leadership” and insight. These reviews then come up in a search. However I was shocked to find that by birthday could be found out through my Amazon account. I had naturally assumed that because it has credit card details that my Amazon account’s default privacy settings who prevent this. You could even see the books I had on my wishlist. Click “Privacy Notice” at the bottom of the page. Then Click “Your Content” in the left hand column and click any of the options that appear below so that you get the sub-nav with the “Edit Profile” option (I’m not sure why they make it so hard to find…).
Blogs can provide a great opportunity to display your insight, experience and thought leadership. If you’re not starting one of your own then find blogs in your area of expertise (or an area you’d like to become an expert in) and practice there.
Remember that if you have a MySpace page everyone can see it so be careful what you say and post. Just being on MySpace could take away from how you are perceived for a more senior position. If you are designer make sure it looks good as you will be judged.
While you can’t totally eradicate all negative references to you or your doppelgangers at least being aware of what’s out there will help you bring it up in a jokey way in an email or interview. I’ve done this several times and it really helps break the ice. It also reveals whether they’ve done a Google search on you or not.
If you have a doppelganger in an area of the web where you have no presence (such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn etc) you may want to put something up just to make sure that the right “you” can at least be found by a HR/hiring manager.
Just like Spring cleaning you’ll need to come back and go through the exercise again once a year. It gets easier as there will (hopefully) be very few new entries in your search – unless one of your doppelgangers suddenly becomes famous. Luckily Google Alerts makes it easier by sending you an email every time something new with your name is posted online.