EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 3, 2013

Universities aim to help students clean up online profiles

By Brian Kuebler
Scripps Howard News Service

---- — Who needs references when you have Google?

Getting a job is no longer just about the cover letter and resume, it’s about search results.

“Google will find you. And Google will find both the positive and negative things. The key really for students to know and to kind of determine is that you want that first page on Google in particular to be very clean,” said Mark Presnell, director of the career center at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

He says studies show more and more employers are adapting to social media and traditional references are often couched for a quick Internet search of an applicant.

It is a trend prompting Johns Hopkins to raise the bar on its career services from simply counseling its students to be wary of their Twitter and Facebook presence to offering them a service to manage it.

“I think that’s really the next step,” Presnell said.

The university recently became a partner with a site called brandyourself.com, a service free to Johns Hopkins students that helps clean up and manage their online shadow.

“People are going to use sites to find people, they’re going to use sites to network, they’re going to use sites to secure opportunities so we want to make sure what they have online is a good representation of their qualifications and skills,” Presnell said.

Johns Hopkins rolled the service out for students in the fall semester and says about 300 of them have used it so far. The goal is to increase that number and get students to start thinking about their online profiles well before their senior year.

“I thought it was a pretty good idea so I signed up for it and it seems like a really cool concept,” said Simone Weiss, a sophomore economics major at Johns Hopkins who has been poking around brandyourself.com.

She says even though she is already pretty attentive to her online image, the site is a useful tool for students thinking about a job or internship search.

“It helps you clean up your online image so stuff that you might not want to be pushed toward the top of your Google search results, it can push it down for you and stuff you would like to appear to the top, it does that for you,” Weiss said.

“There’s one billion names googled every single day so like it or not, Google is your first impression,” said Patrick Ambron, CEO and co-founder of brandyourself.com.

Ambron says studies show that 75 percent of employers are required to google their job candidates.

Today it is all about putting your best digital foot forward and Ambron says his site will help you do that through tips, tools and alerts.

“We’re tracking everything for you so we can tell you, hey, your linkedin profile fell off your first page, log on and do this. Or, hey, something weird showed up on your first page of Google, you should come in and take action.”

Ambron says his site can also tell you who is googling you.

Johns Hopkins is betting the tool will be invaluable to its student body and is one of only three universities in the country so far taking this 21st century approach to getting a job. The other two are University of Rochester and Syracuse University, both in New York.

Ambron says his site is mostly a direct to consumer type product but at least four more universities have contacted him about a deal.