Applying for work today is a privacy nightmare. It 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. In order for that info to be lost or mishandled, someone had to physically lose or steal the paper it was printed on.
Today applicant information is submitted online via social networking websites, application portals, company websites, recruiters, and other middlemen. 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 & 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, & 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 & 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 & aliases
- Date of birth
- Social security number
You definitely have more control when submitting your resume’ & 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.
You have to be truthful here. Using an alias will almost certainly get you passed over. First & last is fine. Adding your middle & suffix helps bad guys identify you specifically if/when this information is lost.
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 & year should be sufficient.
City, state & zip code is all you need on your resume, & 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 & 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.
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. Don’t do that. Give the number you want them to contact you on, & that’s it. Don’t give up every phone number you have, & 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
My everyday email strategy is email forwarding. I like having my own custom domains with email addresses that I can control & create at will. However, for job hunting, I create an email address just for my work search & that’s the only email address I will give out. If you’re doing this on the cheap, just open a secondary Google, or Outlook account & use that email address for your work search. Once you’ve secured your new job, you can update HR with your actual email & then shut the work search email address down
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.
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 & phone numbers. Company, duties, & years is fine. If you’re in the running, & they want to know more, they’ll let you know.
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, & 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, & 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, & you have no idea how they are storing & securing your information. Make a 4 digit pin to give them. If they insist on only accepting the last 4 of your social, insist back that this is poor security, and give them a PIN.
Social Media Profiles:
I have social media accounts that I’m fine with professional relationships seeing, namely my Linked In & 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 & family. If an employer or potential employer wants to know more about your personality, they can call you in for an interview. If they insist on 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.
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 (& for the company to store it), there’s no way around it if it’s a requirement, & 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, & certainly not at the application stage. If they’re trying to verify citizenship or residency, fine, you can do that later. For privacy & security reasons, it is a dangerous practice to require people to submit this information online, & even more dangerous for you companies to store it.
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 & colleagues.
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, & 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 & 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 & agree with skills tests. An evaluation of your technical knowledge & skills should be expected. However, I have many problems with personality & cognitive tests.
- To subject grown ups who have been in the workforce for years to the kinds of tests that you may give 3 & 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 & captains of industry would never “pass” some of these deeply flawed, biased tests.
- 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, & how long that score tracks you across your history with the company & 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.
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 & dry as saying “just don’t do it” but the reality is that employers & recruiters are not going to adjust the process to make it more secure & less risky for you, unless they are forced to. That means it’s up to you to protect yourself, & your personal information.
7 Types of Pre-Employment Tests Given by Employers https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/types-of-pre-employment-testing
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