What did three job applicants have in common with a drug dealer, a child molester and Moroccan hotels? According to Google, it was their online reputations.
Aladdin Riad is a biomedical sciences graduate student, but when “Aladdin” is subtracted from the equation, all that remains is “Riad,” which is no longer a last name but a “traditional Moroccan house or palace.” Riad Googled his name and discovered that the latter “Riad” (Moroccan hotels) trumped his personal links on Google.
“It was weird – I would search my name and all these Moroccan hotels would come up,” Riad said. “I wanted my Facebook and other things to be first links on Google because there is a lot of garbage out there so when people search my name I would rather know what they’re finding.”
Finding is the operative word here.
Google is the new first impression. No matter how hard individuals work to ensure that impression is a pleasant one, sometimes the final results are either out of their control or beyond their realm of knowledge. In an age when it is inconveniently easy for employers to absorb unrelated dirt about a potential job candidate, it is becoming vital that job seekers Google themselves.
Pete Kistler was a student at Syracuse University when he learned of his Google problem and decided to capitalize on his solution.
To circumvent his problem – and the problem of thousands of others – Kistler teamed up with his friend Patrick Ambron to create Brandyourself.com, a do-it-yourself website that provides users with a free way to monitor their search results. Kistler is head of the product, and Ambron is the company’s CEO.
“Everybody was applying for internships,” Ambron said. “Pete literally applied to thousands of internships. He was probably the best in his class – had the best résumé, had the best experience and he wasn’t getting callbacks.”
Eventually, Kistler discovered that an arrested drug dealer – also called as Pete Kistler – was giving his name a bad reputation, and Google was unintentionally promoting the misinformation.
“We realized that Google is an incredibly important part of your reputation,” Ambron said. “But unless you know how search engine optimization works, which most people don’t, or have thousands of dollars, literally, to spend on a reputation company to improve your search results for you then there’s nothing you can do.”
Riad joined the more than 10,000 users who signed up for the three-week-old BrandYourself to do exactly that – brand themselves.
Two weeks preceding its launch, Dominique Merritt, a human resources business partner at Aon Corporation, decided to join the site.
“I thought it would be interesting to see how I could actually control what was out there about me,” Merritt said. “I’ve been in job interviews where I was asked about a Google result that was not me. There was someone else with the same name who was a convicted child molester, and companies assumed it was me, which made job hunting very awkward at times.”
Merritt was more than just another signup though; he marked BrandYourself’s first milestone – its 10,000th signup. And on Monday, Ambron let Merritt know he is more than appreciated.
“I didn’t think that being the 10,000th user was such a huge milestone,” Merritt said. “To my shock, I got a personal visit from [Ambron] in Chicago. He presented me with a trophy and my favorite cookies – chocolate chip. I was just expecting a phone call, but I have to say getting a personal visit from the CEO had a huge impact – talk about building a brand.”
To learn more about BrandYourself, visit www.brandyourself.com.