Dear Evil HR Lady,
I’m a graduate student at a top international relations program, currently searching for internships and soon to be searching for jobs. My problem is this: when an employer searches my full name, the first result they get is my old profile at a social networking site for atheists. I’ve taken the profile down, but have not been fully successful in removing it from Google’s search results. I’ve tried to make my LinkedIn more prominent in the searches, but it’s not showing up so far.
I’ve talked to friends and some have said that if they were an HR and saw that I’d had a presence on such a site, they’d never hire me on the assumption that I was some sort of radical. Do you think that’s true? I could go on and on about how I’m not, how I got valuable leadership experience running a campus atheist group as an undergraduate, how I carefully avoid discussion of religion in professional and personal settings, but that’s not the first thing the HR will see . . . all they’ll see is my name attached to an unpopular and misrepresented social group.
My question, then, is this: is my worry that employers will get a negative impression of me realistic? Is there a risk that this could cost me a job? More generally, how can I discuss the leadership experience I gained when there’s about a 50-50 chance the employer strongly disagrees with the work I gained it doing?