4 tips to help guard your privacy while job searching

You probably know that jumping online is a key to jobhunting. Social media sites greatly expand your network. Job banks help you to both focus your efforts and to learn about more job opportunities. And online applications can greatly speed up your job search timeline. 

But you might also know that sharing personal information online can be dangerous; it’s important to keep your personnel information safe from online scammers who can profit by impersonating you.    

So what’s the best way to safely navigate your online job search?  These tips will get you off to a good start.

1. Be selective about online job banks and other services

A good rule of thumb is to use websites and services that are well-known or have been personally recommended to you. There are many reputable online job banks including CareerBuilder, Indeed, and ZipRecruiter (note that CareerOneStop’s Job Finder combines all of these as well as jobs posted on state job banks into one easy search). These sites have privacy guardrails built into them, so you can use them with confidence (but remember to still follow the rest of the privacy tips below!)

If you’re in an active job search you might find yourself getting ads and emails promoting a variety of websites and services.  Many of them may be legitimate, but many may also be scammers looking for your personal information. Be wary of anyone who contacts you asking for your resume or personal information. Check out Tip #2 for a list of red flags.

2. Know the red flags to avoid

These simple rules can help you steer clear of obvious scammers (read more about avoiding job scams at Consumer.gov):

  • You should not have to pay to search through job openings. You should also be able to post your resume for free. However, you may have to register with a user name and password in order to use all the features of a job bank.
  • If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Sometimes, job postings on online job banks are scams. They try to get you to pay up front or perform illegal activities. Beware of job postings that ask you for an “up-front” investment of money. Also be wary of offers that seem too good to be true. For instance, you can’t really earn thousands of dollars for depositing checks from foreign countries. And it may be illegal to ship items from your home. Read more about job scams from Consumer.gov.
  • Never give personal information online, in email, or on the phone. A legitimate company won’t ask you for certain personal details online. Do not provide your social security or national ID number online. Also you should never give a credit card number, bank account information, or similar details.

3. Tighten up your resume

Your resume is your primary job search tool and you want yours to be as complete and accurate as possible.  But you also want to avoid including too much personal information.  For instance, you’ll need to include enough contact information for employers to be able to get in touch with you, but you don’t need to include ALL of your contact information. Experts advise that you include an email address but not necessarily a phone number (you can provide this to employers that you interview or interact with outside of your resume). Experts also recommend that you do not include your home address on your resume—this is key information for scammers who might try to open a credit card in your name. They also recommend that you don’t include your birthday (nor, it goes without saying, your Social Security Number).

4. Review your social media accounts

As part of your job search, you might be updating your social media accounts in case potential employers visit, so this is a great time to give them an overall security check. Of course you want to make sure that your profiles are professional, which can mean deleting less-than-professional posts and photos (learn more about professionalizing your online image for a  job search).

But you also want to make sure you’re not providing scammers with personal data such as your home address, telephone number, or birthdate. The biggest and most common danger is this last one— including your birth date in a public profile. Many social media users set up accounts with their birthdates several years ago without realizing how criminals can do damage once they have your this information and one other bit of personal data (such as your home address). If you have your birthdate in an online profiles, delete it or change it to a fictional date (experts warn that just changing the year isn’t good enough—if a scammer has the month and day of your birthday, they can often guess the year).

Looking for more tips for your job search? 

Visit CareeerOneStop’s Job Search.

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