Fact Sheet 25:
Privacy Tips for Online Job Seekers
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Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
Posted with permission of the World Privacy Forum, and adapted for the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse website.
- Tips for Job Seekers Who Use Online Resume Services
- Consumer Tips for Using Resume Writing Services
- Help for Job Seekers
In any job search, it is important to circulate a resume. However, job seekers need to carefully minimize privacy issues related to resumes and personal data while still maintaining appropriate exposure to employers.
It is important for all job seekers to understand that employers, commercial job search sites, and resume databases vary widely in privacy practices and controls. Learning to choose a quality job search site and resume database with good privacy practices has become an important part of your job search if you plan to use the Internet as a job search tool.
Another key skill is to discriminate between valid job search-related email and other offers and unhelpful maybe even fraudulent solicitations for your resume or personal data.
Remember, in the information economy your resume and your personal information have a "street value." It is important to protect your resume and personal information from people and businesses who want to use it primarily to make a profit instead of primarily to help you find employment.
The World Privacy Forum and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse have received credible complaints from consumers who had their identities stolen after using the services of online job search sites. You can reduce your chances of encountering such problems by following these tips.
4. Post your resume sparingly. It is tempting to go to every job site you can find and post your resume. Focus on quality, not quantity. If you believe you must post your resume online, hand-pick just a handful of sites that have good privacy policies and a good track record. Choose sites that other people working in your profession have had good luck with, and post only to sites that allow you to mask your contact information.
5. Use a disposable email address. If you decide to post your resume to a site that does not allow you to mask your identity, then mask it yourself. Use an email address that you can cancel if you start getting spam, and don't give out your full name, phone number, or home address.
6. Omit references on your resume. When you post a resume online with your references' names and phone numbers on it, you are giving their information away without their consent in what can be a very public forum.
7. Pay attention to business affiliates. Be aware that many resume writing services and job sites have affiliations with other businesses. When you are given recommendations, be sure to evaluate each recommendation on its own merit. Check for yourself if it is a good deal or not.
8. Limit personal information. No credible employer ever needs your bank account numbers, credit card numbers, mother's maiden name, or identifying characteristics such as eye color. If an employer requests these items from you, don't give them the information.
10. Protect your Social Security number. Some legitimate online job application sites and employment kiosks may sometimes ask for your Social Security number(SSN) and date of birth prior to posting a resume or applying for a job. Some of these sites conduct instant SSN matching or background checks on your information to verify it.
It is the position of the World Privacy Forum that you as a job seeker should never have to submit your SSN or date of birth prior to applying for a job, especially online where verification of where the SSN is going is more challenging. Broad dissemination of your SSN can lead to identity theft. It is appropriate for you to allow a serious employer to use your SSN and date of birth to conduct a background check after you have engaged in the interview process.Not all sites that request your SSN and date of birth are legitimate. As a general rule, you should not supply this information up front, especially in combination with your credit card information. If you are unsure about a site's validity, please see the help section at the end of this guide for options.
11. Limit cookies. Cookies that are deposited on your computer from third-party companies such as an advertising network may track your activities over many Web sites. Most sites will allow you to browse without accepting cookies.
Set your browser to not accept third-party cookies. If you pick up third-party cookies, delete them on a regular basis.
13. Avoid vague offers. The more general the email "job" offer, the less likely it is to be valid. Vague wording like "We have thousands of jobs" or "We work with major companies" is a red flag. Requests to send in a new copy of your resume can spell trouble, too. Avoid vaguely worded offers, and avoid sending your resume in response to general email resume solicitations after you have posted your resume online.
14. Handling unsolicited email about your resume posting. If you post a resume to a resume database and receive unsolicited email other than from legitimate employers or recruiters, be sure to notify the site where you have your resume posted and tell them you have received the email. Be sure to forward the entire email you received to the site so that it can take action. Again, the more vague the email, the less legitimate it is likely to be.
15. Keep good records. Be sure to keep a record of where you have posted your resume. Remember to go back and delete your resume from the sites where you have posted it after you have finished your job search.
16. Resume posting options. Job seekers have several options when circulating a resume.
- One option is to reply to job ads directly without going through a third party. Look for a company-related email address to send your resume to. Another option is to post a resume directly on the Web site of the company you wish to work for. Working with one carefully selected "headhunter" or recruiter is also an option.
- Many job sites and resume databases let you mask your contact information or email address when you post a resume. This resume posting option allows you to control who contacts you or not. If you are going to post a resume online, this should be the only way you post it.
Resume writing services charge can charge large sums of money for their services. Most of these businesses accept credit card payment.
- If the site says it only shares your resume "with your permission," you need to get a firm definition of what permission is from the business. Does the business get your written permission? If not, then how does the business get your permission? This is a very important follow-up question for you to ask if you see the term "permission" used.
4. Payment services. If a business allows you to pay with PayPal, take it up on the offer, as it gives you more ability to keep your credit card information private.
5. Web seal programs. A Better Business Bureau (BBB) Seal on the site is positive, but only if it works. Many people see a BBB Seal on a site and take it at face value. Here's how to check to make sure a seal is active:
- Click on the Seal. You should see a page pop up directly linked to the BBB site. The page will have a date, the company name, and a description of the business along with the business address and phone numbers. The Seal should be current, and not out of date.
- Please note: some browsers may not allow pop up windows. If that is the case, see below.
Problems with seals:
- If you click on a seal and it doesn't open, this is an indication that the seal no longer is active. Or, you may have a browser problem. If you click on a seal and a dated seal with the company name does not appear, go to www.bbbonline.org and look up the company on the BBB site at www.bbbonline.org/consumer/.If you click on a seal and it leads to a search page at the BBB, this too is a sign that the site is just trying to make it look like they have a seal.
If you have any questions about a seal, call the BBB and inquire about the seal's validity.
Reliability Seal Program: (703) 247-9370
Privacy Seal Program: (703) 247-9336
Online Privacy Dispute Resolution Intake Center: (703) 247-9333
Fax: (703) 525-8277
6. Checklist. Here is a checklist of the things you can look at to help you make a decision about the quality of the site:
- If you send a privacy query to the site, does it answer with an affirmative response to you?
For updated tips on online jobseeking safety, consult this publication on the web site of the World Privacy Forum web site: "Job Seekers' Guide to Resume Databases: Twelve Resume Posting Truths," at http://www.worldprivacyforum.org/2009/02/consumer-tips-job-seekers-guide-to-resumes/.
If you have identity theft problems resulting from your resume posting, or if you are unsure about a company, visit the Web site of the World Privacy Forum, www.worldprivacyforum.org, and send in a complaint. Also, visit the Identity Theft Resource Center www.idtheftcenter.org for facts and helpful information. The PRC provides other fact sheets relating to SSNs and financial information located at https://www.privacyrights.org/privacy-rights-fact-sheets.
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