Do you plan to apply for a new job at any time in the future? Then pay attention to your online reputation. Because what’s on the Internet about you can make or break your job search – even decades down the road!

The truth is: Everything you post on social networks and blogs - or that other people post about you – can be Googled in about 3 seconds by future employers. And a single unflattering photo or inappropriate comment can keep you from even getting an interview.

You may think: C’mon, that’s obvious.  But studies show that only 15 percent of job applicants believe their online activity will impact their job search. But 70 percent of human resources managers have rejected applicants based on information they found online.  And half rejected someone because of comments by colleagues, friends or relatives.

Even casual online comments can trip you up. For example, if you gossip about your friends, most hiring managers will assume you’ll gossip about your coworkers, too. And if you criticize your teachers or managers, they’ll think, “I might be next” and simply toss your résumé.   

So, how can you protect yourself? Check to make sure the privacy settings on your social networking sites are still set at maximum – so your page can’t be viewed by strangers. 

Also, create a good online reputation. Post on blogs in your field. And write thoughtful notes and comments using good grammar. Because 1 in 4 hiring managers say that poor communication skills get applicants dumped.

Finally: Use services like TweetBeep, Social Mention and to keep up with everything said about you online, so you can ask people to take the negative things down.