Word search privacy

Nowadays, applying for work means submitting a significant amount of detailed personal information to dozens of different organizations. In contrast to the past when submitting your CV was a paper document that was handed in person, information is submitted online by way of job sites, application portals, company websites, recruiters, middlemen, data brokers, and social networking sites.

Getting hired can take weeks or months for the average job seeker. That is a lot of organizations that have your detailed information stored somewhere, under who knows what kind of conditions, for who knows how long. Furthermore, the prevalence of data breaches and ransomware attacks means you are exposing your personal information to a significant risk when you look for a job.

Today’s job seeker needs to balance giving out enough information to make themselves an attractive candidate, while also protecting themselves from being a victim of identity theft, scams, spam, phishing, blackmail, robbery, and everything else that happens when your detailed personal information is mishandled, stolen, or obtained by people you never meant to have it.

No company can promise you absolute security of your information. If it’s out there, it’s vulnerable.  It’s up to you to protect yourself as much as possible.

Top pieces of information, identity thieves crave:

  • Your hobbies, memberships and work history
  • Your telephone number
  • Your email address
  • Your physical address
  • Where you were born
  • Your mother’s maiden name
  • Your driver’s license number
  • Your full name and aliases
  • Date of birth
  • Social security number

You definitely have more control when submitting your resume’ and the information contained in it. Unfortunately, many times to apply for a position means filling out an online form where highly detailed information are required fields.

Here are a few tips on how to handle the required information you must submit, as well as, how to avoid giving out too much personal information at the application stage.

1. Your name

You have to be truthful here.  Using an alias will almost certainly get you passed over. First and last is fine. Adding your middle and suffix helps bad guys identify you specifically if/when this information is lost.

2. Date of birth

You don’t need to put your birthdate on your resume.  If you need to prove you’re of legal working age, that’s one thing. Other than that, no one needs this to consider your credentials. Again, with online forms this is usually a required field, so choose to whom you give it carefully. When it’s absolutely necessary just to submit an application, month and year should be sufficient.

3. Address

City, state and zip code is all you need on your resume, and your profiles on job hunting sites. Online applications typically make your full address a required field. Why does anyone need to know the exact location of your home just to apply for a job? They don’t. Again, you need to assume that any information you give up online can and will eventually be mishandled or stolen.

I used to avoid online forms that demand this, or weigh how badly I want to work for the company against the probability that they will eventually lose this information.  These days, I have a PO Box for online forms that require my street address. I’m simply not willing to give that information out freely unless it is absolutely needed. At the application level, it’s not needed. They do not need to know the exact location of my home before they’ve even contacted me for an interview.

4. Phone Number

Of course, you need a way to be contacted. I suggest using a secondary number, whether that be a Google voice number, My Sudo, or you can get a cheap pay as you go line for things such as this. Many job portals will ask for “all” of your phone numbers. Um…no. . Give the number you want them to contact on, and that’s it. Don’t give up every phone number you have, and don’t give out other people’s phone number.  If they’re the kind of company who just fills the position with whoever answers the phone first, don’t worry, they’ll be looking to fill that position again very soon.

5 Email Address

You should have a separate email address that you use for job hunting. I prefer the strategy laid in my post on using email forwarding of having a different email address for every account. I like having my own custom domains with email addresses that I can control and create at will.

If you’re doing this on the cheap, just open a secondary Google, or Outlook account and use that email address for your work search.  Once you’ve secured your new job, you can choose to keep it for later, or delete it to stop all the notifications, and annoying emails.

6. Education

This is a tough one. While you want to show your education, it’s also another piece of the identity theft puzzle should bad guys gain access to it. Approximations are fine, years are most important, not exact days.  Again, you have more control when you’re submitting a resume’ than when you are required to type this information into an online form.

7. Work History

Focus on the last 5-10 years, or last 2-3 jobs. No need to give your entire life history, or include exact work addresses and phone numbers. Company, duties, and years is fine. If you’re in the running, and they want to know more, they’ll let you know.

8. Last 4 of your social

One of the most widely used applicant tracking systems “requires” the last 4 of your social security number to put you into the system. Not simply a pin, your social security number. The master key to your entire identity, and financial information.
Whoever came up with this obviously did not pass their Security+ exam. Point-blank, no effing way should you be giving anyone all the above information along with the last 4 of your social. The only time you should be giving up your social security number is for a required background check, or after you’ve been hired, and HR is setting up your benefits. At the application stage, give them any 4-digit number. Odds are you’re never going to hear from most recruiters again, and you have no idea how they are storing and securing your information. Make a 4 digit pin to give them. I call it my application pin.

9. Social Media Profiles

I have social media accounts that I’m fine with professional relationships seeing, namely my Linked In and one of my Twitter accounts. At no point should you EVER give anyone your Facebook account. Facebook is not a professional network. It’s where you talk to friends and family. If an employer or potential employer wants to know more about your personality, they can call you in for an interview.  If they’re addicted to stalking your personal profiles before they’ve bothered to meet you in real life, that’s probably not the company you want to be working for.

10. Driver’s license number

I understand this for jobs that require you to drive. Sometimes you are required to submit a DMV print out with your application. While I think this is incredibly dangerous to hand this over (and for the company to store it), there’s no way around it if it’s a requirement, and you want to be considered for the job.

However,  I don’t recommend that you give this information up unless absolutely necessary. Certainly not for non-driving jobs, and certainly not at the application stage. If they’re trying to verify citizenship or residency, fine, you can do that later. For privacy and security reasons, it is a dangerous practice to require people to submit this information online, and even more dangerous for you companies to store it.

References

It’s common for potential employers to ask for references, but remember that this is other people’s personal information. When you’re being considered for the job, sure, you have to submit your references. At the application stage, no way. Look, if someone is nice enough to let you use them as a reference, don’t sell them out on every application you submit. Take good care of the personal information of your friends and colleagues.

Application portals

 Many companies require you to create an account on their website before you can apply. In their antiquated quest to “secure” this profile that you will likely never hear back from again, they still ask for information that is a treasure trove for identity thieves.

  • Mother’s maiden name -This information can be used to secure credit, or an ID or passport in your name.
  • Father’s name – Asked on credit applications, account security questions.
  • City you were born in – Asked for social security cards, credit apps, and other identity verifications.
  • Previous addresses – Asked on credit applications, to get state ID’s/Drivers licenses, to verify identity.
  • Grade school (why does anyone ever need to know this?)– Common answer to security questions.

Follow your gut. If it gives you the heebie-jeebies to give out certain information, don’t.

Many of these things may be needed to move on to the next steps of considering you for the position, but they certainly don’t need it up front before even reaching out to speak with you. If your skills, education and experience doesn’t speak for itself, where you went to Jr. High School isn’t going to tip the scale in your favor.

Personality Tests

I completely understand and agree with skills tests. An evaluation of your technical knowledge and skills should be expected. However, I have many problems with personality and cognitive tests.

  1. To subject grown ups who have been in the workforce for years to the kinds of tests that you may give 3 and 4-year-olds trying to get into Pre-K is not only humiliating, but does nothing to tell an employer how well you will do your job. Some of the world’s top minds and captains of industry would never “pass” some of these deeply flawed, biased tests.
  2. You have no idea what the scoring system is, you don’t get to see your results, you have no idea where it is stored, who it is shared with, how long it is kept on file, and how long that score tracks you across your history with the company and so much more. I’m always leery of things you are “required” to do, but aren’t allowed to see or get any information about. Most times I’m going to pass on that.

Conclusion

Obviously, you need to weigh the requirements of each individual job application against the jobs that you really want to be considered for. I wish it was as cut and dry as saying “just don’t do it” but the reality is that employers and recruiters are not going to adjust the process to make it more secure and less risky for you, unless they are forced to. That means it’s up to you to protect yourself, and your personal information.

Show Notes

7 Types of Pre-Employment Tests Given by Employers
https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/types-of-pre-employment-testing

Credits

Host: Harold Mansfield, IT Support Specialist

Gear

Microphone Sure SM7B
Mic Boom – Blue Compass
Pre Amp – sE Electronics DM1 Dynamite
Audio Mixer – Rode Podcaster Pro
Headphones – OneOdio Wired Over Ear
Studio Monitors – Rockville APM5W
Computer – Apple M1 Mac Mini