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Web Users Beware: Personal Online Activity May Pose Professional Risk Survey Shows U.S. Adults Search Online for Information about Colleagues, Employees and Customers

BELLEVUE, Wash.– In the digital age, you never know who might be checking out you or your blog — including people connected to your job. A new survey commissioned by metasearch engine Dogpile (www.dogpile.com) and conducted by Harris Interactive(R) shows that nearly one in four U.S. adults (23 percent) have searched online for information about someone with whom they have a work relationship, including clients or customers, employees or potential employees, co-workers, and supervisors or potential supervisors.

Of the online U.S. adults who have searched for a co-worker online, the most common reason for searching was curiosity (71 percent), while of those who have searched for a client or customer, the most common reason was to look up specific information such as an address or phone number (85%). Among those who have conducted such searches, curiosity was cited as the reason by 52 percent when searching for employees or potential employees, and 63 percent when searching for supervisors or potential supervisors. The survey also revealed that men are twice as likely as women to conduct any of these types of searches.

“This type of search activity should be of particular interest to job seekers,” said Margaret Riley Dikel, co-author of Guide to Internet Job Searching. “Job candidates and employees should expect that their employers and co-workers may have searched for them.”

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In counseling job candidates, Dikel’s top two recommendations to job seekers are that they find out what is online about them and that they conduct Internet searches on their potential employers as standard practice during their job search.

Using a metasearch engine, such as Dogpile, which delivers results from the top search engines, is the most thorough way for job seekers to search for information on themselves. Search engines crawl the Web in different ways, so individual engines are likely to contain different information about an individual. Since Dogpile delivers results from several engines at once, it ensures a more comprehensive set of results than any single search engine.

“The benefit of metasearch is that you find the best results from the best search engines without having to do a search on each one individually,” said Melissa Turtel, senior product manager for Search at InfoSpace, which owns Dogpile. “There’s a lot of information out there, and metasearch provides a quick way to find out what is online about you.”

As the number of people posting to personal blogs grows, the connection between personal information in the public domain and its potential impact on one’s professional life takes on increased substance. Mark Mehler, principal of employment strategy consultancy CareerXRoads, cautions job seekers to stay away from posting personal information online because it can affect them professionally.

“You never know who’s going to go to your blog. It’s really best not to post personal information,” said Mehler.

Dikel agrees, adding that one needs to think of all ways information makes it online.

“You have to choose how you want to present yourself to the public. If you’re in the newspaper or a newsletter, you’re online. That’s just something people need to be aware of,” she said. “It’s wonderful if someone has survived breast cancer, but to an employer you may look like a health risk. It’s great that someone is active in politics, but an employer may not look too fondly on your efforts to legalize marijuana.” [24×7]