Job search privacy is an important issue for anyone who uses the Internet to job search, and that's most people. In fact, it's almost impossible to job search without going online. Personal information has been stolen from job sites and there many companies who prey on unsuspecting job seekers.
How Job Search Scams Work
As an example, I read very detailed email correspondence between a candidate for employment and what she thought was a hiring manager at a job she had applied for. The information was very persuasive and included a detailed job offer. After some back and forth, it turned out the "employer" needed her bank account information, or so they said, in order to hire her. It was, of course, a scam, but I can see how she was almost taken advantage of. This wasn't a unique experience. Unfortunately, it happens all the time.
There are, however, some things you can do to protect your privacy when you're job searching. If you're careful, you'll be able to conduct an online job search while keeping your personal information confidential.
Don't Share Confidential Information
Never include the following on your resume, in your cover letters, in email, or in accounts you set up on job sites.
- Date of Birth
- Social Security Number
- Drivers License Number
- Bank Account Number
- Credit Card Information
- PayPal Account Number
- Mother's Maiden Name
- Spouse's Name
You can help protect your online privacy by taking the time to set up accounts (email accounts and user names/passwords) to use just for your job search. Don't mix your personal or work information with your job search accounts. The more separate you keep them, the easier it is to protect your confidential information.
Use a dedicated email address just for your job search. It will not only help you protect your privacy, it will help you keep track of your job search correspondence and applications. Free email accounts, like Gmail, are available, and with web-based email you can check your email from anywhere.
Job Site Logins
Don't use the same login information that you use for your personal online accounts (i.e. your banking or shopping). Use a different user name and password for the job search and career networking sites you use.
Be wary of phishing emails from fraudulent employers. Double-check to make sure the company and the job posting are legitimate by visiting the company web site (rather than clicking on the link in the email) and review the company (the "About Us" section is a good place to start) and the job listing. If you're not sure, research the company online before you respond.
On the Phone
Be just as careful on the phone as you are with email. Don't give out any personal information - legitimate employers don't need it and won't be asking for it.
Keep track of everywhere you post your resume, along with your user name and passwords. Tools like JibberJobber are available that will track where you have sent your resume, as well as communications with your contacts.
Don't Share Information
Do not share any confidential information with a potential employer unless you are absolutely sure they are legitimate (and don't count email-only correspondence as valid communications). Employers don't need your social security until they hire you.
Check Out the Company
Take the time to thoroughly check out the company. Review the warning signs to watch for, if you're having reservations about whether this is the company for you.
Avoid scams by researching job listings and companies before you apply. One quick way to check is to Google the company name plus scam ("company abc scam") to see if there are any complaints. With some companies, I've found pages of results, with more than enough information to know that nobody should apply for a job there.