Until recently, the key to kicking open a door for a job interview was the resume. There are innumerable books that are ‘how-to’ guidelines for resume writing; how to lead with skills, not experience, how to make your dynamic personality jump off the page; how to in fact keep it to one page – the mantra of the resume professional.

While you’ve been busy shoehorning your experience onto one lousy sheet of printer paper (no cheating with legal size) another important issue has emerged for job candidates. That is the use of the Internet as an investigatory tool for human resources departments considering job candidates. The Web is so all-encompassing, so much a social interaction tool and so thorough a resource of public documents that it has become all-intrusive as well.

What to do about it? What many job applicants are finding is that it’s the odd embarrassment rather than some truly deprecatory fact that sandbags them through a web search. A twenty-something with an MBA looking to break into a financial consulting firm will turn up in a college photo taken at a frat party eight or ten years ago. That may be enough to send the recruiter elsewhere.

Young people who are making active use of MySpace and YouTube today are going to be the serious young professionals on the hunt for employment in a few short years. Those pages on the social interaction sites have a way of living on, even if the originator has long ago ceased to participate and taken down his or her page. The material on those sites is freely traded among members and may well end up on other websites outside the membership servers.

The goal, then, is to remove material on the Internet that may be potentially embarrassing or harmful. Because the Internet is the last great free marketplace, naturally a number of for-profit services have sprung up online to help you polish your digital persona. These services provide a number of functions that will help you with any potential online embarrassments and work to keep your online image clean.

What has become apparent is that even if you delete material you no longer wish to be public – as with Facebook – it often lives on in other places. A number of methods have been developed by the professional online image polishers to help with the issue.

When approached by a client, one image-cleaning firm will run an extensive online search and present the client with what they found. If there is material that the client wishes to eradicate, the company will contact the operator of the website and ask that it be removed. If the answer is no, the next call is to the staff attorney.

Another company recommends counteracting any potential negative material by building a positive online profile and driving it to the top of the search process. For a fee, they will build a positive website for a client and go through the necessary machinations with the search engines to get that website at the top of the search. This particular company charges a low monthly fee to maintain their client’s clean image.

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