- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 14, 2011

About two years ago, James Alexander, a tech industry executive who had spent seven years at Adobe Systems, couldn’t find himself.

It wasn’t amnesia, or the first stirrings of a midlife crisis. Instead, Mr. Alexander was searching online, specifically using Google’s search engine, and came up with “about 22,200,000 results,” as a Google search declares. Needless to say, not all of these were about him.

While that could be a search-engine problem related to having your full name be two names - “James” and “Alexander” - that are both common and used as both first names and surnames, it’s not limited to that circumstance. In an interview this week, Mr. Alexander said research found about 2,000 members of LinkedIn, the popular, business-related online networking site, “with the same name as someone on the FBI’s ‘Ten Most Wanted’ list.”

In an era when Google searches related to job applicants are common, that’s not a good place in which to find yourself. Nor might you want a potential employer to search for you and instead find your doppelganger’s Facebook page, complete with photos of massive beer infusions at a frat party.

How to rise above the online confusion? Mr. Alexander suggests Vizibility.com, the 2-year-old online firm he founded, where he’s the chief executive officer. As he describes it, “Vizibility is like a ‘Google Me’ button for career professionals providing one-click search to the results they want others to see first.”

Having set up my own Vizibility account rather easily, I now have a link that directs people to the Google results I would rather they see. My full search results remain available on the main Google site, and Vizibility.com’s “profile” includes a button visitors can use to view those results.

A basic account is free; the firm also sells “premium” items and services that might appeal to small-business owners and professionals, among others.

So far, so good. But how do you get this link out to the people who may be interested in this information? For that, Mr. Alexander suggests two things: a “search me” button you can place on Web pages, in email signatures and elsewhere online, and a QR code, which is short for “quick response,” a multidimensional bar code that can pack a lot of information into a small square.

Print the code on your business cards, resume or letterhead, and you can be “found” easily. A user just scans the QR code, which can be done using an app for most smartphones, including the iPhone, and more information appears, including a link to one’s Vizibility page.

You can now give someone a business card with your name, phone number and the QR code; they can scan the code and find you. Did you move last week? No problem; update your Vizibility info and your new address is available instantly.

Mr. Alexander said research shows 50 percent of hiring managers have looked up applicants on Google and either eliminated candidates based on what was found - or on what was not found. If you say you were a product manager at a major company, for example, it’s expected your name would be on news releases from that company announcing new products. If those announcements aren’t easily found, it might raise questions about what your job really was.

Using Vizibility, however, you can link to a key news announcement, trade magazine profile or whatever you desire; the “quick search” shows five Web links of your choosing.

Most important, Vizibility can let you stand out as you, and not as someone with your same name. Julie Walraven, a career marketing strategist and owner of DesignResumes.com in Wausau, Wis., likes the concept.

“I know job seekers who have common names and they have struggled with identity issues,” Ms. Walraven wrote in an email. “I could see this as an excellent tool to review and keep results that fit your profile and diminish other people’s influence on your results.”

• Email mkellner@washingtontimes.com.