You’re job hunting. You’ve ordered new business cards, prettied your resume, dry cleaned your suit. Then your potential employer Googles you, only to find a slew of unsavory web sites with your name on them.

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Your name forms the basis of your online identity. But what’s attached to your name can determine whether you get the job. Potential employers may scour the internet to find out whether you’ll fit their mold. And the “professional you” may well be buried on page twenty of Google’s search results.

“As it happens, Google doesn’t discriminate between good and bad,” says graduate student Fred Stutzman. “It doesn’t make a value judgment. If you write a stupid comment on a blog with very high page rank, it’s going to go above the great article about you, just by virtue of where you posted it.”

But now you may have some say in what Google reveals about you. Stutzman and Terrell Russell are helping people take control of their online identities. They created ClaimID, a web site that acts as a central hub for the links that relate to the user, and, maybe most importantly, the links that don’t.

Stutzman and Russell say they made the service easy to use for people who may not have high-tech needs. College students on a hunt for a job can go to ClaimID’s web site, register to open a free account, and gather URLs that relate to them. They may link to their college web site or sites relating to their extracurricular activities. There’s even a place to explain why they’ve included each link. Their chosen ClaimID sites will appear near the top of search results for their names.

“We’re giving search engines the food they want to make you findable,” Stutzman says. ClaimID acts like a central hub with spokes, or links that you provide. Search engines eat this up; linking together web sites through the hub strengthens the relevance of your links when someone searches for your name.

Since ClaimID opened in June 2006, more than 14,000 people have signed up. Job candidates, graphic designers, programmers, consultants, and entrepreneurs have taken advantage of the service, Russell says.

“Some people like being hidden among all the John Smiths in the world,” Russell says. “And some people hate that.” ClaimID users can gather links that do not relate to them, point to them and say, “That’s not me.” This was useful for Stutzman, the sixth or seventh in a line of Fred Stutzmans.

To ClaimID, your online identity is not your social security number or credit card numbers; Stutzman says it’s the photos in Flickr, the blog posts, and the MySpace accounts.

With ClaimID, you can make strong verifiable claims that the web sites you specify are really associated with you. And building a loose affiliation of verified links on your ClaimID page makes the page more trustworthy and valid to someone who reads it, Russell says.

“We enter people’s digital lives through one vector, more or less,” Stutzman says. Say you have a friend you know solely through the blogosphere. That friend will be a newcomer to your other web sites but, through your ClaimID page, will be able to see links that you have verified. And it’s not hard to provide verified links on your page. If you want the “verified” stamp next to your blog’s link, ClaimID can generate a code for the site using two pieces of information: your e-mail address and the blog’s URL. After you post the code in your blog, a robot will crawl through, find the code, and stamp the link to your blog “verified” on your ClaimID page.

The purpose of ClaimID is to make users and their links findable. But if your name is Barbra Streisand, you’re probably out of luck. You’ll be buried among more than two million Google hits on the singer, even if your name is spelled “Barbara.” We’re all just words to a search engine, Russell says.

It can also be challenging to bury things in search results that you’re not proud of, such as a stupid comment you may have left on a blog, Russell says. First, you shouldn’t link to it in your ClaimID profile, because it’ll become more findable. You just have to build up the good links and hope that, over time, your comment will become less relevant, he says. But it may never disappear.

Stutzman and Russell run ClaimID on a budget for two grad students. They don’t plan to make money off their project anytime soon, but data from ClaimID may come in handy for their dissertations. For now, they’re learning how people want to handle their online identities, and in a few years, they expect more people to be faced with identity issues. Some MySpacers and Facebookers show off their partying skills as they surround themselves online with friends and loved ones. But soon they’ll face a more judgmental crowd of potential clients or employers. Young internet-users may not realize the consequences of what they’ve done, Russell says.

“It hasn’t reached critical mass, in that all the teenagers on MySpace now aren’t trying to get jobs at Goldman-Sachs,” Stutzman says.

Kelly Rae Chi was a student who formerly contributed to Endeavors.

ClaimID is not affiliated with or operated by Carolina. Fred Stutzman and Terrell Russell are doctoral students in the School of Information and Library Science, Stutzman in his second year and Russell in his third.