(From NYT 7/25/11) Joe Bontke, outreach manager for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s office in Houston, said that he regularly reminds employers and human resource managers about the risks of violating federal antidiscrimination employment rules and laws by using online research in hiring decisions. “Things that you can’t ask in an interview are the same things you can’t research,” he said, which includes the gamut of information covering a person’s age, gender, religion, disability, national origin and race. That said, he added that 75 percent of recruiters are required by their companies to do online research of candidates. And 70 percent of recruiters in the United States report that they have rejected candidates because of information online, he said. So – what does that mean for you? As you do other end of the year cleaning and organizing, why not pay attention to your online footprint as well? If your Facebook page seems a little too informal and social, create another profile for professional use. Better yet, redirect your professional and job search contacts to your LinkedIn profile. For tips on making it more effective, see this post. You can never really eliminate any unflattering photos or posts; everything lives on forever on the world-wide web. But you can make sure that you’ve deleted unprofessional or unflattering photos or posts and unfriended people whose less-than-professional posts may show up in your news feed. Get rid of pages you “like” that don’t reflect your best self, and stop “liking” snarky posts from your friends. Everyone is connected to everyone on social networks, and you can never control who sees your activity. A worker was at home recovering from surgery; she’d requested several days off because she wasn’t quite able to return to work. Her daughter posted about a social event she (the mom) attended and her manager saw the post. No harm done this time, but why take the chance? Do a Google search on your name and see what you find. Are there any public record or news notices (like arrests, lawsuits or bankruptcies) for people with names similar to yours? That may be what a recruiter sees first in a search for you. You can’t control it, but you should be aware of it. Social networking is here to stay, and it can be a valuable tool in your job search. But like most effective tools, it can have sharp edges and require training before use.