2003 Job Search Privacy Study: Consumer Tips for Job Searching Online

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In any job search, it is important to circulate a resume. However, job seekers need to carefully minimize privacy issues related to resumes and personal data while still maintaining appropriate exposure to employers.

It is important for all job seekers to understand that employers, commercial job search sites, and resume databases vary widely in privacy practices and controls. Learning to choose a quality job search site and resume database with good privacy practices has become an important part of your job search if you plan to use the Internet as a job search tool.

Another key skill is to discriminate between valid job search related email and other offers and unhelpful maybe even fraudulent solicitations for your resume or personal data.

Remember, in the information economy, your resume and your personal information has a “street value.” It is important to protect your resume and personal information from people and businesses who want to use it primarily to make a profit instead of primarily to help you find employment. The World Privacy Forum and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse have received credible complaints from consumers who had their identities stolen after using the services of online job search sites. Recently, an identity theft scam was operating through job fairs at State Departments of Labor and stole the identities of hundreds of people who supplied resumes, SSNs, and financial information to a fraudulent company. You can go far in avoiding these kinds of problems by following these tips.

• Do not use a job search site, a resume writing service, a resume distribution service, or any job search service that does not have a posted privacy policy on its Web site. A privacy policy is a legal document that explains to you how a site or business will handle your personal data. It is also the basis of legal protection for you in case you run into any problems. If the privacy policy is not posted on the Web site, you do not have this legal protection. Posting privacy policies is voluntary. Most job sites at this point do post privacy policies. When you use the site, print out the policy and keep a copy of it for your records.

• No credible employer ever needs your bank account numbers, credit card numbers, mother’s maiden name, or identifying characteristics such as eye color. If an employer requests these items from you, don’t give them the information.

• If you plan on purchasing services from a commercial job site or writing service, look for a privacy policy that details how that service will handle your credit card data. Whenever possible, you may want to consider using PayPal to purchase services to protect your financial information from a company you do not know well.

• Some legitimate online job application sites and employment kiosks may sometimes ask for your Social Security Number and date of birth prior to posting a resume or applying for a job. (www.sportsauthority.com, www.albertsons.com, usajobs.opm.gov, studentjobs.gov, and many state job sites request this information.) Some of these sites conduct instant Social Security Number matching or background checks on your information to verify it. It is appropriate for you to allow a serious employer to use your SSN and date of birth to conduct a background check after you have engaged in the interview process.

• Not all sites that request your SSN and date of birth are legitimate. As a general rule of thumb, you should not supply this information up front, especially in combination with your credit card information. If you are unsure about a site’s validity, please see the help section below for options.

• Cookies that are deposited on your computer from third party companies such as an advertising network (for example, Advertising.com or Doubleclick) may track your activities over many Web sites. Most sites will allow you to browse without accepting cookies. Set your browser to not accept any third party cookies. If you pick up any third party cookies, delete them. Or you may visit the opt-out pages of many advertisers and request that they stop tracking you with cookies.

• Research found that most sites allow you to look at job ads using anonymizing services. By all means take advantage of this. Using these services, which are free, will protect you from cookies and other privacy threats. www.Anonymizer.com, www.nonymouse.com, and www.junkbuster.com are sites to visit for more information about anonymous browsing. You can find a comprehensive list of these services at www.epic.org < http://www.epic.org/privacy/tools.html > .

• Even the most careful, conscientious sites cannot control your resume after an employer or a recruiter has downloaded it.Job sites do not have the ability to track or physically control how a recruiter or employer uses your resume after it is downloaded. Most sites watch for problems – such as rapid resume downloads– and enforce terms of use agreements with employers and recruiters. But let the job seeker beware. When it comes to resume databases, some responsibility does fall to the job seeker to understand the risks involved in posting a resume in a database.

• The more general the email job offer, the less valid it usually is . In the Biotechcareers.com emails to job seekers (a situation in which resumes were stolen), what stands out the most is that the emails asked jobseekers to send a resume to a new email address or to “update” their resumes. No specific, credible job was offered at one specific, verifiable company. Vague wording like “We have thousands of jobs” or “We work with major companies” is a red flag. Requests to send in a new copy of your resume can spell trouble, too. Avoid vaguely worded offers, and avoid sending your resume to general email resume solicitations after you have posted your resume online.

• Resume posting options for job seekers . Job seekers have several options to choose from in circulating a resume.

• One option is to reply to job ads directly without going through a third party. Look for a company-related email address to send your resume to.

• Another option is to post a resume directly on the Web site of the company you wish to work for.

• Working with one carefully selected “headhunter” or recruiter is also an option.

• Many job sites and resume databases let you mask your contact information or email address when you post a resume. This resume posting option allows you to control who contacts you or not. If you are going to post a resume online, this should be the only way you post it.

• Before posting a resume to any database, take the time to look for and read the privacy policy of that site and query the site owner with any privacy concerns . Be sure to look for specific privacy policy statements about resumes, registration information, and statements about how that information is used, stored, and shared. Pay particular attention to how long a site says it will keep or store your resume . Preferably, job and resume sites should state that they promise to keep your resume for a limited, specific amount of time, such as one to six months, after which the site will delete your resume. Without specific, written statements about how long your resume may be kept, your resume can be archived for years, legally . Most job seekers do not want resumes circulating after they have gotten a job.

• Before you post a resume, check to make sure you can delete your resume after you have posted it . Look in the job site’s privacy policy for resume deletion instructions. If you don’t find any such instructions on the site, write an email to the site and ask how or if you can delete your resume. If you are not satisfied with the reply, do not post your resume to that site. You must be able to delete your resume when you want to. After all, it belongs to you.

• If you plan on using a resume writing service in your job search efforts, get an agreement in writing that the service will not sell or share your resume or personal data with any third parties or partners . Also, ask to see the privacy policy of any resume writing services you may use and ask specifically about how the service handles and stores your resume. This applies to traditional and online resume writing services.

• Be aware that many resume writing services and job sites have affiliations with other businesses. When you are given recommendations, be sure to evaluate each recommendation on its own merit. Check for yourself if it is a good deal or not.

• Handling unsolicited email about your resume posting . If you post a resume to a resume database and receive unsolicited email other than from legitimate employers or recruiters, be sure to notify the site where you have your resume posted and tell them you have received the email. Be sure to forwardthe entire email you received to the site so that it can take action. Again, the more vague the email, the less legitimate it is likely to be.

• Keep good records . Be sure to keep a record of where you have posted your resume. Remember to go back and delete your resume from the sites where you have posted it after you have finished your job search.

• Post your resume sparingly. It is tempting to go to every job site you can find and 71 post your resume. Focus on quality, not quantity. If you believe you must post your resume online, hand-pick just a handful of sites that have good privacy policies and a good track record. Choose sites that other people working in your profession have had good luck with, and post only to sites that allow you to mask your contact information.

• Use a disposable email address. If you decide to post your resume to a site that does not allow you to mask your identity, then mask it yourself. Use an email address that you can cancel if you start getting spam, and don’t give out your full name, phone number, or home address.

• Omit references on your resume . When you post a resume online with your references’ names and phone numbers on it, you are giving their information away without their consent in what can be a very public forum.

• Your resume belongs to you. According to current copyright law, you own your resume and the copyright on it. If you don’t like how your resume is being handled, you have the right to complain and take action.

Help for Job Seekers

If you believe your resume or personal job search data, including your email address or your name, has been shared or used in a way inconsistent with a job site’s posted privacy policy, you have recourse through the Federal Trade Commission (FTC.)

You may file a consumer complaint with the FTC by calling (1-877-FTC-HELP ) or by using the FTC’s online filing system, located at http://www.ftc.gov/ . Click on “File a Complaint Online.”

If you have identity theft problems resulting from your resume posting, or if you are unsure about a company, visit the Web site of the World Privacy Forum and send in a complaint. Also, visit the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse www.privacyrights.org/identity.htm and the Identity Theft Resource Center www.idtheftcenter.org for facts and helpful information. The PRC provides other fact sheets relating to SSNs and financial information located at www.privacyrights.org/fs.



Roadmap: 2003 Job Search Privacy Study – Job Searching in the Networked Environment: Consumer Privacy Benchmarks: XI. Consumer Tips for Job Searching Online


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