2003 Job Search Privacy Study: Methodology

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A. Site Methodology

Site analysis involved over 1,000 hours of testing each site.


B. Methodology for Analyzing Resume Distribution Sites

Sites were chosen based on a variety of factors including amount of brand exposure, overall site traffic, affiliation with major search site or known industry brand or individual, researchers personal knowledge of the sites, recommendations by industry members, and by the amount of e-mail solicitations for business received from the resume distributors after a resume was posted. High volume email solicitors made the list automatically.

The principles of Fair Information Practices based on the 1980 OECD framework were used as the guide for privacy analysis.

On October 16, 2003, the sites were visited for the final time and privacy policies, terms of use, and other relevant pages were captured and saved. The site policies were captured within one 12 hour period. These are the documents that were used for final analysis of the sites, in addition to any distribution results.

Over the course of one year, researchers monitored resumes posted on all major job sites. All email promoting resume distribution services that was sent in response to those resumes was collected, tracked, and analyzed.

Each site was analyzed for the following specific items:

  • Does the site have a privacy policy?
  • Is the privacy policy posted conspicuously?
  • Does the privacy policy follow all of the FIPs?
  • Does the site have a terms of use policy?
  • Does the site encrypt or otherwise provide for secure credit card transactions?
  • Does the site display an online trust seal?
    • If yes, is the seal valid?
    • If yes to display question, and the seal is not valid, is the BBB or other seal program able to definitively confirm or deny the validity of the seal?
    • If yes to display question, does the site have a privacy policy?
  • Is the site a member of a BBB?
    • If yes, what is the site’s rating, complaint number, and type, if applicable?
  • Does the site respond to privacy queries?
    • What is the response?
  • Does the site have an affiliate program?
    • If yes, what is the amount paid per referral?
    • If yes, has the affiliate program resulted in spam to jobseekers after the posting of a resume?
  • Does the site makes its full resume distribution list available to job seekers?
    • If yes, is the list accurate?
    • If not readily available prior to purchase, does the site respond to job seeker inquiries to view the list prior to paying for a resume distribution?

A sampling of resume distribution services were tested for results. Unique e-mail addresses were used for each resume, along with unique name aliases. All incoming e-mails and phone calls were recorded and sorted by email address and alias.

Researchers checked the Internet Web Archives for changes in privacy policies, old distribution lists, and other supporting information about the sites.

Researchers conducted searches for legal actions regarding the sites.


C. Resume Writing Services Methodology

• Researchers chose the resume writing services based on their affiliation with a large or well-established job search site or career organization as well as the size or profile of the business.

• Also, industry professionals who were not resume writers were queried as to key businesses in the industry.

• After the services were selected, researchers called each service with information requests. The script researchers used on the phone was:

“We are a consulting firm which works with third-party recruiters and some of our clients have asked us to find additional resume sources. Does your company sell resumes or resume databases and, if you do, what is the cost.”

• The researchers were instructed to tell the truth about where they worked if they were asked for that information. No resume service asked for the business name therefore none of them knew who was actually making the calls, although they had ample opportunity to know. Calls were placed by three researchers during the week of October 13 – 17.

• Each site was analyzed according to the Fair Information Practices framework as set out by the Internationally accepted OECD 1980 guidelines.

• Each privacy policy was downloaded and analyzed, when available.

• Sites were researched for consumer complaints, BBB online memberships, seal programs, and legal complaints.

• Researchers conducted general forensic data research on the selected sites to determine their technical practices.

• Researchers conducted informational research on the selected sites to determine general background information about the sites such as date founded, place of business, etc.

• One email query was sent regarding the privacy policy and practices of a site. The results were collected and tabulated.

• Prior to publication of this data, each resume writing service was notified 48 hours in advance of what the results were and were given a chance to respond to those results, correct errors, and discuss the results with the principal investigator on the study.

• Two resume writing services were removed from this study altogether after the research was complete.



Roadmap: 2003 Job Search Privacy Study – Job Searching in the Networked Environment: Consumer Privacy Benchmarks: XIV. Methodology


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