Today, all adults need to see themselves as job applicants, whether they currently have a job or not. Unemployment respects no one in this tough economy. You could be an applicant as soon as tomorrow, so it is important that you realize that the rules have changed. It's an employers' market, and hiring managers hold all the keys.

Once you get your foot in the door, you face the next hurdle of standing out in the crowd of people who are vying for that job. Your experience and education are only parts of the equation for many employers. Most employers care more now about a prospective employee's background. With so many applicants to choose from, employers can afford to be picky.

Assume that, as part of your job application, you will be required to release your credit report to this prospective employer. These days, they do background checks that include credit checks. Credit reports reveal a lot! Your history will include everything from a record for how you pay your bills to judgments and liens recorded against you.

Review your credit reports. You have three of them, and you are entitled to a free copy of each every 12 months. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com to order your free copies. Read all of the prompts carefully, and don't sign up for anything that costs money.

Challenge anything on your reports that you do not know to be correct. You cannot remove correct information, even if it is damaging, but you can challenge what you do not know to be true.

What's new in background checks for job-seekers is how prospective employers may view your social networking activities. What you post by way of text and photos to Facebook, MySpace and Twitter may well become included in your job application. These days, the words, deeds and visuals that you post are out there are subject to showing up on search engines. Assume that what happens on these social networking sites may not stay there.

If you're planning to apply for a job with the city of Bozeman, Mont., prepare to clean profiles up before you sign that application. As part of Bozeman's background checking protocol, the city tried to require applicants to turn over their username and passwords for all of their social-networking sites. Due to major backlash against this policy, Bozeman recanted. But could this be a harbinger of things to come for other municipalities and private corporations?

Starting right now, do not post any pictures, stories, events or language that you would not be proud for your employer to read and file in your personnel file. Whether you're looking for work now, or could be in the future, you can take steps now to make sure that all background checks will show you in the best light possible.

In the era of Cyberspace, little of our lives is truly private. That doesn't mean you should not fiercely protect your privacy. Just don't be surprised when it shows up in your next job interview.

What has been your experience with these new rules for job-seekers? Report back by leaving a comment on my blog at MoneyRulesDebtStinks.com

Copyright © 2009 Mary Hunt. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint required.

Check out Mary's recently released revised and expanded edition of The Financially Confident Woman (DPL Press, 2008).

Debt-Proof Living was founded in 1992 by Mary Hunt. What began as a newsletter to encourage and empower people to break free from the bondage of consumer debt has grown into a huge community of ordinary people who have achieved remarkable success in their quest to effectively manage their money and stay out of debt. Today, "Debt-Proof Living" is read by close to 100,000 cheapskates.  Click here to subscribe. Also, you can receive Mary's free daily e-mail "Everyday Cheapskate" by signing up at EverydayCheapskate.com