If you plan to apply for a job anytime soon, there’s something you should know: Your resume is no longer an employer’s primary source of information about you.
“It’s the first 10 links that show up in a Google search,” says Michael Fertik, CEO of ReputationDefender. “Whether it’s a job interview or a date, people log on to check you out.”
With the explosion of information online — social-networking sites, blogs, etc. — anyone can be a victim of a malicious lie. Or an embarrassing truth. This is where Fertik can help.
“We search out all information and destroy everything that’s inaccurate, inappropriate, hurtful, or slanderous,” he says.
Fertik came up with the idea after learning something about young people’s online behavior. “I didn’t like it,” he says. “I was doing the same thing when I was their age but what they’re doing online we were doing on a piece on paper, which we threw away afterward. What they’re doing is permanent and very public.”
Fertik started ReputationDefender with some friends in September 2006. It has grown by word of mouth. “We spent $900 on advertising,” he says. “No marketing or PR. I guess we struck a nerve. People understand that the Internet is a giant tattoo parlor. It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five mouse clicks to destroy it.”
Fertik’s service starts at $10 a month for basic search. It can reach $100,000, depending on the extent of the problem. Basic service deletes mention of you in blogs, discussion groups, and the like. The more sophisticated Search and Destroy service caters to executives.
Companies also hire ReputationDefender to look after the image of their higher-ups. “If an executive has a lawsuit they don’t want the public to see, we can take care of that,” Fertik says.
Of course, there are limits, he adds. “We can’t touch government records or anything that’s produced by newspaper. We can remove photographs, videos, comments, discussion forums or anything else.”
The company now has clients in 23 different countries, 45 employees, considerable revenue, and negligible competition. “We’ve made a huge investment in technology, which is why we do not have competitors,” Fertik notes. “A business like this requires a lot of capital.”
The key to success is simple, he says. “Just be honest in everything you do and share the credit as much as possible.”