While we work hard to protect our personal information in every other aspect of our lives, should we really be sharing our entire career backgrounds, personal data, and contact information with countless strangers in the name of the job search? As it happens, the answer is simple: What choice do we have?
If you want these strangers to know something about who you are and what you can do, you’re going to have to tell them. And if there’s any personal risk involved in this kind of sharing, it’s a risk we accept when we choose to participate in the professional world.
Here are a few simple ways to keep your information safe and under relative control during your job search:
1. Use Google. Invest your energy in a job application only after completing a five minute search of the company and/or the specific hiring manger. This is a simple, easy, cost-free form of due diligence. No responsible employer will hire you without doing a similar search of your own name, so make sure you give yourself the same advantage. Of course, most of the job postings you come across will be for legitimate positions and not scams. But take a few simple steps to confirm this before you start providing answers to personal questions.
2. Do your research. Spend more than five minutes researching a company or opportunity that seems sketchy. Giveaways include any of the following: Misspellings and excessive exclamation points in the post, a company name you’ve never heard of that search engines don’t seem to recognize, too much emphasis on what the job can offer with no reference to requirements on your part, or a “recruiter” who contacts you directly via your email or phone and who comes with no legitimate address and no verifiable credentials.
3. Don't over-share. Remember that the resume and profile information you post on LinkedIn can be viewed by everyone in the world, not just those on your contact list. (Unlike on Facebook, for example.)
4. Leave out personal info. Your resume should not contain any reference to your marital status, the number of children you have, your religion, your ethnicity, your social security number, your credit score, or anything dealing with your health or handicapped status. It goes without saying, but under no circumstance should you share your bank account information, your W2s, or your personal account passwords with any potential employer. No legitimate company will ask for these things.
5. Beware the unknown. If you’re in the middle of a job search, you may receive a barrage of messages and attachments from unknown senders. But you don’t have to open them. You also don’t have to answer the phone if your caller ID shows a number you don’t recognize. If this is a real opportunity, the caller will leave a message, or the sender will find a better way to reach you.
6. Don't rush to click just any link. If you’re skimming a job board and come across a sketchy or incomplete post that encourages you to click on a link for more information, pause. Don’t just click without taking a closer look.
7. Four walls? Then no problem. Don’t hand your resume, phone number, or address to anyone while you’re standing outdoors. As a general rule of thumb, make sure there’s a roof over your head before you share personal information about yourself with anyone. Indoor settings promote calm thinking and clear judgment.
Remember that any widespread form of desperation draws opportunists. And the job market is a landscape rife with desperation.
Protect your interests, and never fear a missed “opportunity” if you sense that your safety or personal information are at stake. The next opportunity will come along in due time. And when it does, your resume will be ready to hand over. In the meantime, visit LiveCareer for resume formatting, drafting, editing, and submission guidance.