A Syracuse Start-Up Helps Polish Online Reputations for Job Seekers

Syracuse, NY – The idea for Brand-Yourself.com came to Pete Kistler when he was in high school.

"I found that there is an ex convict with my name. So when people googled me, they found him," said Kistler.

He's right, that name pops up in a database, you know, THAT kind of database.

"People started confusing me with him, so I realized that this is a serious problem. It wasn't just a problem I had, it was a problem my friends had," said Kistler.

He wanted to create a business that wouldn't so much erase damaging content about someone on the internet, but rather highlight the good things. So he helped found Brand-Yourself.com. The chief marketing officer is Patrick Ambron. He says Brand Yourself takes a proactive approach to promoting people who don't have a social media presence, like on Facebook and Twitter.

" We're the only tool set that does S.E.O. and social media for individuals," said Ambron.

When Ambron said S.E.O. right there, that stands for "search engine optimization." That's the practice of making search engine results go your way, so good things come up first. When job seekers do it, it's sort of the digital version of combing your hair before a job interview, so the bosses like what they see.

"You wouldn't tell them irrelevant stuff, you wouldn't tell them about other people. You would tell them all the best stuff about you, WHO you are. We show that stuff is available on the web, and it's easy for people to find," said Ambron.

Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources for CareerBuilder.com says," typically people are surprised at what is deemed as the most relevant information about that person by the search engine alone."

She says more and more employers are turning to the Internet to find information about applicants.

"We're seeing an increase in the number that say they're doing this. %45 in a recent survey Career Builder conducted said they're using online technology to research candidates. And I think there are a few more still a little timid, a little hesitant to say that they're doing it, so the real numbers are much higher," said Haefner.

So, what's a person to do if they have a common name like John Smith or say Robert Sherman.

Who's Robert Sherman? He's the guy who composed the Disney song "It's a Small World." He also did songs from other Disney movies like Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang AND there's a Robert Sherman who's an employee of Brand-Yourself.com. Marketing Officer Patrick Ambron says Brand-Yourself put their product to work for him.

"One of the things our system would recommend is using a unique name. It's a very hard thing to make sure you're the Robert Sherman, so he used a less common one, RJ Sherman. He puts that on his business cards, he puts that on his resume, that's what he goes by," said Ambron.

The Brand Yourself crew is pretty young. They're fresh out of college, but have won some awards for the work that they're doing. They're raising money, and they've gotten a spot in a business incubator in Syracuse, the Tech Garden.

The bottom line is online reputation matters. Brand Yourself charges a fee for their service, but career experts say a job seeker should at least Google himself to make sure he's aware of anything damaging that could squash his chances at landing a job.