10/01/2012 12:20 pm ET Updated Nov 25, 2012

What Do You Have in Common With Mitt, Kate and Paris?

A lack of privacy.

Mitt Romney's "47 percent" video, Kate Middleton's topless sunbathing photos [safe for work] and Paris Hilton's recent conversation in a cab were private moments that were secretly captured and made public.

You probably won't be surreptitiously exposed at the same level of Mitt, Kate and Paris, but you now live in a world where you have to expect that any information that can derail your career will be found online:

  • Gossip about why you were fired
  • Political rants you posted on blogs or message boards
  • Photos of you that create negative perceptions
  • Discrepancies between your submitted résumé and online profile

You can't control everything that is about you online, but for information where you can hit a "submit" button ExecuNet founder and CEO Dave Opton proposes that you ask yourself two questions first: Would you want your mother to find out? And would you want to see it on the front page of the Wall Street Journal?

Recruiters consistently reported to ExecuNet since 2005 that they disqualified executive job candidates for hiring consideration when they found negative information online; therefore, it is your personal responsibility to ensure your digital reputation is well-managed.

Here are the steps to control and optimize your online reputation:

1. Go to the popular online search engines (Google, Yahoo! Bing) and put your name (in quotes) in the search box.
2. If you have a common name, add something only attributable to you in the search term to help narrow it down, like a company name, city/state, or function.
3. If there are positive results, great! Now, build on them.
4. If there are negative results, you have to deliberately publish positive information to suppress the negative results.
5. If there is nothing, get busy creating your brand.

Conversely, the overwhelming majority of executive recruiters reported to ExecuNet that they look more favorably upon a job candidate when they find positive information online.

The bottom line about being online: You need to be visible, and the information needs to be reflective of a strong, professional executive brand.

Get the complete infographic on managing and optimizing your online reputation: Don't Let Digital Dirt Derail Your Career: Create, Enhance and Protect Your Online Profile to Drive Professional Success