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Colleges Help Students Put Best Web Foot Forward

After initially supplying BrandYourself accounts to graduating seniors, Syracuse University this year struck a deal with the company â¿¿ begun by a trio of alumni â¿¿ to offer accounts to all of its undergraduate and graduate students and alumni at no additional charge. About 25,000 people have access to it so far.

"It's becoming more and more important for students to be aware of and able to manage their online presence, to be able to have strong, positive things come up on the Internet when someone seeks them out," said Mike Cahill, Syracuse's career services director.

Online reputation repair companies have been around for at least a couple of years, often charging hundreds or thousands of dollars a year to arrange for good results on search engine result pages. BrandYourself, which normally charges $10 a month for an account, launched two years ago as a less expensive, do-it-yourself alternative after co-founder Pete Kistler ran into a problem with his own name.

"He couldn't get an internship because he was getting mistaken for a drug dealer with the same name," said co-founder Patrick Ambron. "He couldn't even get calls back and found out that was the problem."

An April survey of 2,000 hiring managers from CareerBuilder found nearly two in five companies use social networking sites to research job candidates, and 11 percent said they planned to start. A third of the hiring managers who said they research candidates reported finding something like a provocative photo or evidence of drinking or drug use that cost the candidate a job.

"We want our students and alumni actively involved in shaping their online presence," said Johns Hopkins Career Center Director Mark Presnell. Students are encouraged to promote positive, professional content that's easily found by employers, he said.

BrandYourself works by analyzing search terms in a user's online profile to determine, for example, that a LinkedIn account might rank 25th on Google searches of the user's name. The program then suggests ways to boost that ranking. The software also provides alerts when an unidentified result appears on a user's first page or if any links rise or fall significantly in rank.

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