3 years ago there was a criminal investigation that resulted in my name being published in the news papers. Although the case went to court the charges were dropped. My online reputation was basically destroyed. My family suffered financially from the legal costs and the public shaming has sure been more than a fair amount of punishment. Still the negative impact on my life continues and I can not find distance from this past.

In the past 3 years I've spent a great deal of time and money trying to push down the negative content. I have been told that the offending domains are in the top 15% rankings, and getting the content pushed off the first page for my unique name is likely never going to happen.

I've tried the following to push down the content:

  • I've contacted REP management companies which all seem to charge a large monthly fee and if you don't pay the Google results will revert back
  • I've created domains with my name and started blogs
  • I updated all my profiles SO, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter with my real-name in the URLs to try to push it down
  • I started several blogs (Tumblr, Medium, Blog) with my real-name
  • I created as many back-links to the above to raise their rankings

After doing the above changes to my online reputation Google responded by moving the newspaper articles higher up on the first page. I had made things worse.

I live in Canada, and there are no laws pertaining to Google search results that would allow me to have the content removed.

I've consulted with lawyers but none have been interested in tackling a major newspaper, and the costs/time are way outside my capabilities.

I struggle now almost daily trying to find an approach to my job hunt that will be effective. I wish to only have the same opportunities as everyone else and not to be faced with early rejection or bias or discrimination.

I have found other similar questions on this site, but the majority pertain to criminal background checks. Keep in mind, that I am struggling to even get this far into the hiring process.

For example; How should I address a non-violent criminal record when applying for jobs?

The accepted answer advocates early full disclosure, but this has not been working for me.

  • I get a lot of interviews scheduled, and then cancelled. I never get a chance to share my side.
  • The person performing the interview is often not the deciding person, and any explanations I give are not forwarded.
  • If I share this information at the start of an interview, then it consistently sets this dark tone to the interview. I've just never had success with early disclosure in the interview.
  • If I wait till the end of the interview to share the information, then they just shut up. No one wants to discuss it or ask questions. And since the interview already took up most of the time I'm not really left with much room to give a lengthy explanation.
  • I get requests for second interviews by a different person, who then cancels.
  • People assume I have a criminal record which I don't.
  • I struggle to find representation using an agency or recruiters.
  • I have seen many agencies tell me it was nothing personal when they would no longer represent me given the high number of interview cancellations.

To make matters worse. I have overused my references. I am asked for more references by more employers than anytime in my past. Employers are also being more specific about which references they want. Forcing me into positions where I have no references (i.e. I can't find out what happened to my last boss as he's no longer with the business).

I have thought of a legal name change, but in Canada all name changes are published online by the government. So this will be included in search results when someone Googles your name. Furthermore, my entire employment history is connected to my real name.

What action can I take to reduce the impact of this bad press?

  • 14
    Comments are not for discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. There are now 100 deleted comments on this post, most of which were posted after the move to chat. Dec 1, 2017 at 20:10
  • 2
    What kind of work do you do?
    – msouth
    Dec 2, 2017 at 10:30
  • 4
    @Joe Was your middle name used in the article?
    – Myles
    Dec 6, 2017 at 16:50

17 Answers 17


The first rule of selling yourself in these cases is Tell A Compelling Story. You cannot change the negative information that the potential employer will receive. They will search you out, and they will find it. They will then form that information together in their minds into a narrative of who you are as a potential employee, and it is that narrative that will tell them whether or not they want to hire you. You need to look at the information they will have available, figure out a narrative that works with that information that doesn't make you look completely unemployable, and then sell that narrative. There are a number of things standing in the way, though. Among them....

  • You are often rejected by people who have never even met you. This makes it particularly hard to tell your story. My suggestion there, if it's feasible with your current career, is to target smaller companies and job fairs. This lets you present yourself first, to work on your spiel with a reasonably large number of people, and to get the first word in before they hit google. If you're lucky and the company is small enough, there may actually be someone with hiring authority at the job fair, and even if it's not that far, they'll still be much closer to being able to make that call than most first-bracket interviewers.

  • You have a black mark on your record, fair or otherwise. That's bad. Even if you can convince them rationally that you are 100% blameless, they'll still have a bit of doubt in their minds, and/or might see some cost to being associated with you. Appearances do matter. That means that you can't just be as good as whoever you're up against. You'll lose ties. You have to be better... which means that you need to work into your narrative somewhere a strong affirmative reason (or more than one) for someone to take you. What specific competitive (or other) advantage do you bring that no one else will?

If you were willing to tell us more (like your career field itself, what you were accused of, how culpable you were actually, and so forth) we could almost certainly give you better, more targeted answers. How much you're willing to reveal, though, is up to you.

Oh, and one other thing. Have you thought about just... asking the newspaper? Go down to their offices in person, explain the situation, and ask that the articles be removed from their online archives. If you truly are innocent, and it's seriously horking over your life, its possible that you might be able to simply convince them to take it down with a personal appeal and a bit of persistence. Alternately, if that doesn't work, and you are, again, truly innocent, it may be possible to convince some other (competing) news outlet to do a human interest piece on you, and on how badly it's horked your life. Even if it doesn't shame them into taking the thing down, it's possible that that will make it to the front page of the google results, which would help a lot. Of course, if you're not totally innocent, then that sort of thing is liable to backfire.

  • 31
    I have contacted the newspaper. They will only publish retractions, and they will not publish a retraction without the use of a lawyer. To make matters worse, the article was syndicated across the country in other many news sites. The article itself is an unimportant story. It does not appear anywhere else. It is just my name that brings it into search results.
    – Joe
    Nov 29, 2017 at 17:50
  • 155
    In that case, trying to get a competing paper (or news site or whatever) to run you as a human interest story might help, if you can find one that both runs that sort of thing and is reasonably reliable. I don't know about Canada, but there are outlets in the US where "the news media ruined my life" would run pretty well. Of course, even if successful, that sort of thing can add a certain political bias to the people who are willing to hire you, but it's better than the state you're in currently.
    – Ben Barden
    Nov 29, 2017 at 17:54
  • 86
    To add to what Ben said about running the human interest story about how your life has been ruined, there have been many instances in the past where such stories have resulted in people coming out of the woodwork and offering employment to deserving people. Think of it as another aspect to "Telling a compelling story" (and if I was really cynical I'd say that this time of the year would be a great time to get that story out there)
    – Peter M
    Nov 29, 2017 at 19:27
  • 23
    In addition to a human interest piece, it might also be of some interest to political mudslingers ("Politician X ruined man's life over misunderstanding"). I suspect that would be a negative in most cases, so be careful about who you find to run such a story.
    – jpmc26
    Nov 29, 2017 at 23:05
  • 16
    +1 to the proposal of the "X ruined my life". However, be sure to pass this through a lawyer first, so there is absolutely nothing that could construed as false. Even if in lay terms we would use two terms interchangeably, it is possible that legally those are different, and your story must be strictly true. The least you want is that you get called out on your version for a technicallity.
    – Ángel
    Nov 30, 2017 at 18:12

To be honest I'd suggest going with the name change to something fairly common (eg "Joseph Smith") and informing your references that you have changed your name to that.

It may be worthwhile asking former employers about their employment verification processes. If those processes are to provide limited information that is specifically requested then it may be worthwhile to inform HR at former employers of your name change. As follow up to this I'd strongly suggest having a friend do a mock request to make sure policy is being followed.

Having a common name will negate the effects of publication of name changes by the government in straight google searches as there are much more likely things to come up. This won't avoid your issues with a thorough background check (as companies that do these checks probably log name changes for each province into a database) but would likely get through a cursory one.

From comments: Previous public presence will impact how effective this is. If your resume heavily relies on previous awards or publications consideration must be made on whether those can have the name change applied and what the impact is to the resume would be should they be omitted. In the OPs specific case this seems like a negligible factor however it is a worthwhile consideration for future visitors to this site in a similar situation.

  • 5
    @DarkCygnus An example from my home province ehealthsask.ca/residents/name-changes/Pages/… If you change your name to something very uncommon "Cyrilius Confignius III" this Sask Gazette article would definitely be on the first page and possibly be the only result. If you change it to "Joseph Smith" the Sask Gazette article is likely to be very low in the search range.
    – Myles
    Nov 29, 2017 at 17:37
  • 10
    Interesting. From that link: "Name changes will not be published if a person is under the age of 15 or if other special circumstances apply." - What would be a special circumstance, is it specified somewhere? Still leaves some doubts about what is special or what is not.
    – DarkCygnus
    Nov 29, 2017 at 17:39
  • 9
    @DarkCygnus Probably internal policy at Vital Stats Sask but I'd guess that it would be safety related for witness protection or people leaving domestic violence.
    – Myles
    Nov 29, 2017 at 17:44
  • 6
    I agree with this answer and would have answered if it wasn't already brought up. I worked with someone that was a family member sharing the same last name as of one of the NYPD officers found guilty in the Abner Louima case of police brutality. If you are truly innocent but your name has suffered irreparable damage, a name change is the best course. But, if you are not truly innocent, the name change will look like an underhanded move and probably hurt you more. Nov 29, 2017 at 21:37
  • 6
    This is only as effective as your ability to hide your old name on your CV. This means any educational awards, publications or citations that an employer can look up with your old name either have to be updated or omitted. Other items in your portfolio may need retroactive authorship changes, depending on their nature. All your references, and previous employers who might be reached for verification, have to be on board too. I'm not saying "it won't work", just "the legal name change is not the hard bit".
    – user66066
    Nov 30, 2017 at 9:51

Having read the comments on your question it might be possible that this needs to be tackled from a different angle.

From what I've gathered it is possible that the interviewers aren't getting hung up on the investigation, the court case, nor the dropped charges but rather the actions that led into all of this.

When an employer is looking to hire a person, they are looking to hire someone they can trust to make the company look good and public actions against others are fair game in regards to a person's reputation.

I know this sounds like a long-shot but it might be worth focusing on convincing people that this previous blemish is not the sum of your overall character.

One way which you can try and re-gain your reputation could be to start volunteering in your community. I think that showing interviewers that you are a functioning and contributing member of society could help them to give you a chance and listen to how your blemish is not a representation of your character.

I am positive that this is going to be difficult considering the fact that you might be in a sub-par job or have no job but unfortunately you will have to put in the sweat-equity of rebuilding your reputation.

One final and super long-shot thought:

Is it possible for you to get in touch with this politician and vehemently apologize for the transgression?

If for no other reason then just apologize so that you can clear your conscience and confidently move forward knowing that the blemish does not account for your entire character.

If you do get the chance to apologize then just remember these rules:

  1. Expect nothing from the other person
  2. Apologize with sincerity
  3. Do not ask for them to help you in any way

If they ask "Why are you here?" then you answer "To right a wrong."

If they ask "What do you expect from this?" then you answer "Nothing."

They may end up saying nothing, saying thank you, or they might end up digging deeper into your life. If they dig deeper and present the chance for you to explain your hardships then the best thing for you to do is objectively report that the incident has caused hardship in your life and maintain your stance of expecting nothing from them.

If they are a kind person and believe in your sincerity then they might offer to "speak" to some people at the newspaper. If they are really nice then they may offer themselves to be listed as a character reference.

  • 4
    I think this is an accurate observation and a good start to an answer, but could you explain how to go about convincing people of that?
    – David K
    Nov 29, 2017 at 19:11
  • 1
    @Joe I understand that Google is certainly causing interviewers to "judge a book by its cover" but you have clearly indicated that fighting natural search results has proven futile and getting the law on your side is financially impossible. I think that addressing the human aspect of the situation could be all that you have left. Any thoughts on my "super long-shot"? This person clearly had the power to ruin your reputation; any chance of them restoring/clearing it?
    – MonkeyZeus
    Nov 29, 2017 at 21:05
  • 2
    @Joe elaborating on "judge a book by its cover"; you did mention that you occasionally get the first interview, right? If so then make sure to shine the brightest light possible and highlight the recent good in your reputation so that hopefully their impending online search will not be totally detrimental to you.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Nov 29, 2017 at 21:09
  • 4
    Note that the last suggestion using the politician as a character reference could backfire hard if that person desires to humiliate you more. They could tell you that they did everything they could to make you sound great, when in reality they might be saying "I'm not sure why they thought it would be good to include me as a reference since I'm the one that they did [insert terrible thing, possibly more exaggerated than the news article] to. If you hire this person, you will have nothing but trouble." If it got to that call it would be the deciding factor, but could go either way. Coin toss.
    – Aaron
    Nov 29, 2017 at 21:12
  • 6
    That "super long shot" of confronting the politician again sounds like russian roulette. The first time Joe talked to them he was only photographed (no mention of video or other hard evidence) and then arrested & charged seemingly for nothing since the charges were dropped. That might be considered a "hollow victory" for the politician too, and Joe showing up again would give them another opportunity to get back at Joe. I'm not saying politicians lie, but they could say anything happened this time & try getting Joe in worse trouble. At the very least don't try it without witnesses and video.
    – Xen2050
    Nov 30, 2017 at 9:26

Since you are scheduling interviews you are being contacted to setup a time, right?

This could be the opportune time to disclose that you do have a negative reputation online due to an incident in the past. In response to accepting the interview, maybe include a statement along these lines:

I do want to be completely transparent and upfront about one thing before coming in to interview. A few years back an incident in which I made poor decisions was heavily covered by the media. Although all charges were dropped, there is still a lot of negative information out there about me.

I take responsibility for my actions and I have learned my lesson and have become a better person from this experience. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about this matter. I look forward to the interview and learning about position and company.

The key things in this response:

  • Acknowledging that the incident did take place
  • The charges were dropped so you do not have a criminal history
  • You hold yourself accountable and are learning and growing from the incident
  • End on an optimistic note
  • 1
    It could help very much to prove the "have become a better person" at this point. Nov 30, 2017 at 12:53

I completely understand your predicament. Approximately 6 years ago, I too had my reputation destroyed by what seemed to be every media outlet in the entire world. I was forced to retire from my position and from that industry, even before answering to any charges or final legal decisions.

Because of the exaggerations and media hype, much of which was false - but it sure sells - I switched industries. Then without much trouble at all, I have been able to find work. Private employers, in many cases, hire you based on your present relationship with them. It might work for you too. You just need to expand your circle of associates. Perhaps join a local small business assocation as a freelancer (you can pick the area you freelance in).

  • There's no such "PM" feature. However, you can create a chatroom, set the two people as ROs and ask a mod very nicely to make it private. (I think you might need a bit more than 300 reputation for creating a chatroom, but you could ask a mod to do that as well, if they have free time.)
    – wizzwizz4
    Nov 29, 2017 at 20:22
  • Well shoot. it really is not that necessary, I was just thinking there might be a way for @joe to get at me outside of this forum. I am not sure if it is within the rules to put my emails: [email protected] or [email protected] here or not. If so, then there it is, if not please have mercy and just delete this comment or edit it out. Nov 29, 2017 at 20:59
  • 3
    Using an alias name and looking for work as a freelance/consultant where I can use the company name for invoicing as been the top of my list as a solution to making a living. I just struggle with transitioning from job seeker to freelancer. Particularly in how I write my cover letters and resumes. Most of the information I find pertain to job seekers. Any advice in that area?
    – Joe
    Nov 29, 2017 at 21:00
  • 5
    I did a search and got a British footballer, but then I realized there was a z not an s. Man in your situation I don't know which is cooler.
    – Sentinel
    Nov 30, 2017 at 10:48
  • 1
    @Joe also check out freelancing.stackexchange.com
    – mcknz
    Nov 30, 2017 at 15:44

Be upfront about the issue in a cover letter. Include information/links to any retractions or evidence of your innocence.

Hopefully, more employers will be understandable and will forward this to any research service they are using. Your honesty should count for something.

  • 20
    I wish this was true, but when applying to a job that was advertised the rejection rate of disclosure in a cover letter or resume has been 100% for me. It's the nature of competition.
    – Joe
    Nov 29, 2017 at 17:43
  • 1
    @Joe, have you considered writing a blog post with the apologies, etc.? That way they won't come across it just reading your cover letter, but when doing their internet research they will.
    – Wildcard
    Nov 30, 2017 at 6:38
  • 3
    Depending on your field, many companies are looking for simple ways to narrow down the list of eligible candidates for the job. It's possible that some would take an interest (see Ben Barden's "Tell a Compelling Story" answer); but unless that story is exceptional compelling, most will indeed use this information (whether from your cover letter or a later Google search) to eliminate you.
    – RDFozz
    Nov 30, 2017 at 22:30

Ask you lawyer to seek an injunction preventing the (automatic) publication of any future name change on the basis it will cause undue hardship (or something like that - the lawyer may be able to find a reason a court will accept).

If you can get that then you should be able to change your name legally without it becoming associated with you in searches.

Note however that if your picture has been published this may not entirely eliminate the problem. But it would be a starting point to work from.

Note that you said :

Later in court. The prosecutor said that the news article gave them enough leverage to seek 20 days of jail time. The judge asked me what do you have to say for yourself? and I said "I'm sorry". He dropped the charges.

Just to point out to you that many people confuse not being sentenced to a punishment (after e.g. an apology to the alleged victim) with the charges being dropped.

You need to be clear with yourself whether you were actually found guilty or not guilty or whether the charges were dismissed. These are different things and may affect whether you could get an injunction as I suggest. In apologizing you may in fact have been admitting guilt, which is why I mention this.

  • 3
    This. "I'm sorry" is effectively an admission of guilt, and could well be followed by an absolute discharge, which is certainly not dropping charges or being found not guilty. However, an absolute discharge (at least in Ontario) is only recorded for a year, so mentioning that in combination with cheshire's answer may well help. Dec 1, 2017 at 0:32
  • @AndrewLeach It could be of note that an apology is not considered an admission of guilt in certain jurisdictions. Some provinces in Canada (the asker's home country) have an "Apology Act" indicating this. For example, Ontario ontario.ca/laws/statute/09a03 Dec 5, 2017 at 19:23

Considering the 35,000+ people who have read your question so far, perhaps you should include your real name right here... Rather than just "Joe". Then potential employers could find this page and understand your situation better while considering your credentials. At the same time, I understand not wanting to add fuel to the fire surrounding your public reputation.

You don't say what your blogs are about, but as an employer I think I would be somewhat skeptical of the truth of a blog which can be easily made up. However, the way you explained your situation here would be rather convincing, I think.

  • Yep, Stack Exchange has a lot of SEO juice. Dec 3, 2017 at 17:02

My experience in life has taught me that there are basically two different approaches to this kind of challenge:

  1. Attack the problem.
  2. Recognise that bad things very often result in amazing, rewarding things happening that otherwise would not have, and embrace the status quo.

Regarding 1. - I think the fight fire with fire approach in the other answers is the way to go. Get a newspaper to pick up on your plight and make the narrative stick. Show the politician with fingers in the media pie for what she is: a tyrant who abuses her power in the modern establishment. Clear your name in public.

Regarding 2. - Look at it another way. So imagine you get your foot on the corporate ladder, and as you spend time grinding away you realize that this was never the life for you. That office life in its stale, climate controlled air thick with office politics and pointless drudgery is nothing but a trap. You get a wage, you take on debt, you end up with bills, and you feel like you have no way out. 20 years later you clear your debts and look back on a huge chapter of your life as being unfulfilling. This story is just one example of how many people experience their careers today. I'd say in the white-collar Western job market, probably most. So, if this were to be the case, the politician has just done you a huge favour. Maybe it's the universes way of saying "don't go this path, do something else, like write a book about your experience, be self employed, work on UpWork, learn a new skill, travel....."

My two cents. Wishing you luck and peace of mind.

PS: The two approaches above are not mutually exclusive of course.

  • 3
    I know it is humor, however working for UpWork is worse off than working for a boss, with typically a 20%-15% fee from you gross paid value, and the 3rd word outbidding you in price even when they are not clearly capable of delivering. Dec 1, 2017 at 3:43
  • 1
    I beg to differ - how expensive it is to have a marketing department? Plus, you will not be outbid by anybody once your reputation is established. Dec 1, 2017 at 5:49
  • 1
    Me too. I spent a year and a half on UpWork working 20hour weeks for a full salary. At the moment am in a self imposed semi retirement before heading back to contracts next year.
    – Sentinel
    Dec 1, 2017 at 9:57

1/ If you live in the EU, exercise your "Right to be forgotten".

2/ Go borrow (or more likely, buy -- cost of unemployedly waiting is more than sales price) the book "So you've been publicly shamed?" by Ron Jonson, which deals with all these issues: Reputation management companies and their exorbitant cost, who recovers and how (with or without companies), mental health effects, etc.

[If you search you'll probably find online that he's occasionally branded a racist homophobic misogynist by people who haven't read his books; don't let that stop you. It's stemming from a draft paragraph of this book; how that happened is dealt with too, possibly only in more recent editions; it's anyway illustrating his point of how things taken out of context start their own lives.]

I'm personally free of shame, and I found it an entertaining and informative book, in the style of his earlier "The psychopath test". (There's a link between them in that a psychopathic personality may make you immune to shaming, with a very specific high-profile example in it.)

  • 2
    OP indicated that he lives in Canada
    – DarkCygnus
    Nov 30, 2017 at 15:51
  • If 1/ is not true you can still move there and then exercise it. Being canadian, you likely know english and maybe also french which goes a long way in the union to make you job attractive language-wise. Dec 3, 2017 at 10:00
  • @DarkCygnus I know, but someone looking for answers for themselves (that's the point of making this a public resource) might not. It's going to be 5--25% of readers (wildly guessing here), but for them it's the one single most sensible step to take. Dec 4, 2017 at 11:06
  • @mathreadler OK moving continent is relatively drastic. Dec 4, 2017 at 11:07
  • @user3445853 : naah, hopping continent to avoid injustice and to search for liberty is not all that dramatic as it was in the earlier days. Dec 10, 2017 at 16:53

Well, everyone likes a good redemption story! Ask the politician for a media opportunity where you can make a public apology. They get a chance to demonstrate their largesse and their political clout, because they got someone who attacked them in some way, no matter how trivial, to crawl back to them on hands and knees, hat in hand, and beg forgiveness, which they are magnanimously providing. In full view of reporters and/or t.v. cameras, explain how your life and reputation have been ruined by what was a foolish mistake/choice/action, how remorseful you are, and how grateful you are for a chance to make things right before the politician and their constituents.

Point is: instead of running from the media, make the media work for you! If you've got dependents at all, bring them along and show how difficult life is for them because you can't provide for your family. Be sorry, but also show how disproportionate the response was.

Now, even though this can have upside for the politician, they may not choose to cooperate after all. You may need to approach them quietly to see if they will play along first. If they don't want to help you, the next step is to make your apology via an open letter in the biggest newspaper you can find. If you have to, buy a full-page ad to force the newspaper to print your apology. But if you must resort to this, then also include your sob story about how this incident has ruined your life, and how you just want to be a useful and productive member of society at this point. It would also help if you could include testimonials from folks who can attest to your volunteer opportunities and community service.

This will put the politician in the uncomfortable position of being the unforgiving and ruthless bad guy. You can even write up this open letter first, and if she indicates that she doesn't want to do the shared Photo-Op Of Redemption, then you can just warn her straight-up that you are going to publish this open letter apology and bring the issue to the surface. This will put her on notice that you are going to put her in the uncomfortable position of playing "Spiteful Bad Person", which she can avoid simply by accepting your apology in a polite, cooperative public setting. Most politicians will decide that playing bad guy to likeable average Joe seeking redemption is spending political capital that they just do not need to spend. It's the worst form of Punching Down. Much cheaper to just play nice, and possible upside to boot.

Of course, all of this requires you to actually be sorry and to suck up and demean yourself to someone that you probably loathe with your entire being. That's the hard part you will have to muster from within your own soul. But I can guarantee that if anyone thinks your apology is not authentic, if you are not 100% believable, then this will be a terrible, terrible mistake. On the other hand, I think there's a decent chance that if you pull it off, people will be calling you to offer interviews or outright job positions. And at the least, you should get some positive press to outweigh the negative, and being more current, it should be ranked higher than the bad stuff. Good luck!

  • 2
    I really have opposing views on this one. It sounds like something that could work, but seems too far-fetched to be able to do in a secure and effective way. What is really answer material here is the idea of using/turning the media to your advantage... but would have to carefully plan it.
    – DarkCygnus
    Nov 30, 2017 at 4:09
  • 5
    I am with DarkCygnus on that too. Sounds like it could backfire. I don't think the O.P. should apologise anyway - the real problem here is that a politician abused her contacts and that there is something insidious and wrong about the information age today.
    – Sentinel
    Nov 30, 2017 at 10:43

You already tried different strategies to deal with your stained reputation, and all failed. Stop trying to trick the Google search engine and wasting your money and nerves. You now need to elaborate a detailed strategy how the shake off your shackles, maybe with the help of an expert that specialized on changing identities under such circumstances.

I would suggest that you now consider the following combination of actions:

  1. Change your name to a very common one. If possible, change it twice.
  2. Try to prevent the publication of your name change because of hardship, if possible. If not, find out what exactly is publish except for the name itself, i.e., what additional information that could be used to trace your old identity.
  3. For your references, inform your past employers in your reference list about your name change, so that they can confirm that John Doe really worked for them.
  4. Get your name change on the necessary documents and certificates for the hiring process.
  5. Delete your social media profiles now.
  6. Get rid of the idea that you need to apologize to anybody. You suffered enough and you atoned for whatever your did, because it was obviously not that bad.

You need a solid strategy to get past the HR and background checks. Once you are in a reasonable company and have been working their for a couple of years, your should be safe, even if you finally get "busted" in some unfortunate coincidence.


I'll add a simple, different point of view.

If what you wrote is correct and the real story, the most obvious (but probably less evident) fact is that you have been failed and betrayed by your own country. Laws, journals, politicians, maybe not voluntarily but in your specific situation everything is working against you.

In this cases you have two options: 1) You go big and fight back. Go on national tv, find a really big lawyer (who'll work for free just for the visibility gain, there are many), fight for your rights and change your country failures so that it will not happen again to anyone.

2) Leave Canada. The world is big and plenty of job positions waiting for you.

  • "find a really big lawyer (who'll work for free just for the visibility gain, there are many)" - spiky hair and a cool suit optional but highly recommended. Nov 30, 2017 at 12:15
  • There are countries where a reputation is not so easily destroyed by a lapse, but it seems they are getting rarer. Without using social media, you are decreasing you competitiveness for jobs. With social media, if you get into trouble they will be the last nail into you coffin. There is no place left to hide for the outcast, no escape. Nov 30, 2017 at 13:35
  • 1
    @NoBackingDown it could sound weird to you, but the earth is a way big place where very few countries looks exactly the same. Searching info on Internet about a someone before hiring him is something that I've never ever heard of in most places in EU or the east Asia: I need your CV and that's all.
    – motoDrizzt
    Dec 1, 2017 at 9:12
  • @motoDrizzt I'm being located in EU, and I have heard of it. It think it depends on the scope of the job. For a plain a warehouse worker, nobody would bother. But probably every research scientist will be googled. Dec 1, 2017 at 10:29

I am a bit surprised that this has not come up in any of the answers, but the easiest solution seems to be:

Use an alias

Aliases are not that uncommon, in my country people with christian names often use an alias, as well as people from a different nationality. And then there is still a decent group of people who use it because they just don't like their given name, or don't want to be confused with someone else.

Note that this answer is geared towards a given name only, changing the family name would be unusual.


This has nearly all advantages of an official name change, without the drawback of it being published/costing money.

I you would inform your references that you did a name change, you can also inform them that you are now called differently.


At some point you will need to submit your formal name, for instance when you are going to sign/when they need to do background checks on you. At this point you will of course provide them with your formal name, and if any questions are raised you will answer them, but hopefully it leads to minimal distraction in the complete hiring process.

Note on moment of reveil

Note that at some point early on before/after they hire you your name will come up. Whether you submit it, they ask you, or you tell it later during lunch.

At this time it is critical to keep calm, and not encriminate yourself. Try answering in the line of:

Indeed I distanced myself from that name, because the court cleared it, but not the public.

Note on avoiding the topic

In the job application process, it is acceptable to avoid talking about reasons why they would not want to hire you. However, if they ask a straightforward question (e.g. have you ever been charged with a felony), be sure never to tell a lie! Otherwise you will get into trouble sooner rather then later.


It looks like you have spent a considerable amount of time, effort and money to solve this situation, and going the way you've chosen to go (fight it) you will spend more (possibly much more) of the same.

Doing a balance up to this point, how much time, effort and money it would have cost/it will cost to work for the one employer that values you more than anybody else in the world, and does not mind, in the least, your past? That is, you.

In other words, doing a cost vs results analysis, would it not be better to start your own business? It looks like the best and cheapest way, considering the options (doing a national news piece and hoping, hiring famous lawyers etc).

  • 1
    How do you propose OP does that?
    – DarkCygnus
    Dec 1, 2017 at 18:20
  • The way anybody would start their own business. Dec 3, 2017 at 14:29

You really need professional help with this, period.

I would suggest that you work with a professional online reputation management company or perhaps a lawyer with some expertise in this area. A quick google search will provide several options. Other than that you're best best would be to change your name.

If you go the professional help route, you should only worry about this during the job search and maybe the first month or so on the new job. After that, drop the service until you need it again.

  • 4
    Read his second paragraph, it appears that the OP has already tried that. Nov 29, 2017 at 17:32
  • @Joe Not sure what other options you would have...but this would only be relevant during a search for a new job, after that let it it expire.
    – Neo
    Nov 29, 2017 at 17:35
  • And when it comes time for interviews, you do still need to be upfront about what happened. You don't want this to show up in a background check or a google search two months in, only to have them fire you for lying about your history. The purpose of the rep management is to let you get your foot in the door so you can explain why it's not an issue.
    – David K
    Dec 1, 2017 at 18:05
  • 1
    @DavidK Agreed. This tactic just helps you at least get your foot in the door and have the opportunity to explain.
    – Neo
    Dec 1, 2017 at 18:06

Since creating websites about you didn't work, why don't you try creating websites about a /Fake/ you that did all this ?

Things like a public Facebook with a drunk man on it, a fake blog about activism/whatever about this fake you and fake images of you. Interviewers would maybe believe that it's not you it you have another account in your name with your photo about completely different things.

  • How are they supposed to know what he looks like?
    – Casey
    Dec 4, 2017 at 18:38
  • @Casey Well, if you create a completely different person (other job, other hobbies, other education), I'm sure you can distinguish the two.
    – Frank
    Dec 5, 2017 at 20:16
  • The problem with this idea is, I wouldn't be surprised if they were actually two different people and one person were creating problems for the other.
    – Casey
    Dec 6, 2017 at 22:19

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