Apparently one new services are offering to help students on the verge of graduating to get jobs is a sort of cleaning service for online information. According to an Associated Press article in USA Today:

Syracuse, Rochester and Johns Hopkins in Baltimore are among the universities that offer such online tools to their students free of charge, realizing ill-considered Web profiles of drunken frat parties, prank videos and worse can doom graduates to a lifetime of unemployment – even if the pages are somebody else’s with the same name.

It’s a growing trend based on studies showing that most employers Google prospective hires and nearly all of them won’t bother to go past the first page of results. The online tools don’t eliminate the embarrassing material; they just put the graduate’s most flattering, professional profile front and center.

It’s a little unclear how this works because there are two distinct online reputation problems. The first occurs if you post a lot of pictures of yourself half naked or doing keg stands or something. The second occurs if someone else has an unsavory online reputation and also has your name. According to the article

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.

The article explained that one student had trouble getting a job because he had the same name as a convicted drug dealer. And so he used the service that “cleaned up” his online profile.

Couldn’t he just write “not the drug dealer with the same name” in his cover letter?

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Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer