What Google says can make or break your career

Social media experts, an IT staffing firm and pros at Microsoft, IBM and Dell reveal ways to boost -- or bust -- your reputation

Risks can extend through association. For example, Facebook friends that lack decorum can reveal your personal information, photos and whereabouts. Family members with personal blogs may expose interpersonal dynamics. Groups you join showcase your personality traits.

While there are ethical concerns and legitimate drawbacks to viewing the online profiles and social networking activities of potential candidates, it remains an interesting tactic for employees to get a better feel for people and determine whether they are who they said they were in interviews, said Nigel Wallis, research director at IDC Canada Ltd.

"Most people are very aware of their reputation in the outside world -- how I'm dressed, did I shave, what car I drive, what device I carry -- signs they give off when they walk around, so it's only natural to monitor and want to protect that in the online world," said Paolo Pasquini, spokesperson for Consumer and Online at Microsoft Canada Corp.. "But a lot of people don't do that."

The Web is no different than everyday life, said Richard Binhammer, Conversations, Communities and Communications at Dell Inc. "When you come out of your office building at lunch time, you don't all of a sudden sit down with 15 of your buddies and cause havoc and not expect it to get back to your employer."

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