4 Tips to Stay Private While Job Hunting

Job hunting is a very stressful process: from writing a seemingly infinite number of cover letters, to maintaining your LinkedIn profile, to deciding what to wear to your interviews. Staying private while job hunting is something that typically only crosses people’s minds when they’re trying to keep their current employer from knowing that they’re looking for a new job. However, regardless of whether you’re employed while job hunting, it is incredibly important to make sure your privacy is protected on the Internet. Ensuring that your potential employers only see the information you want them to see and preventing potential scammers from accessing personal information off of publicly available resumes are just some of the reasons why a private job hunt is a better and safer job hunt.

Here are some tips and guidelines on how to stay private while job hunting online.

1. Don’t make your personal information visible on your online resume.

Sharing information such as your mailing address and phone number on a publicly available online resume is a bad idea; scammers sometimes use public resumes to look for identifying information and use that to employ phishing scams, blackmail, or identity theft. I made this mistake while looking for internships as a college junior, and I ended up getting targeted in numerous email phishing scams as well as receiving a barrage of suspicious and threatening text messages that came from someone claiming to want to hire me.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should not make a publicly available resume to share with real potential employers. If you are sharing your resume on a platform that allows you to make it visible to “employers only,” this is a much safer choice. However, the following Internet-safe guidelines will help protect your identity no matter who is viewing your resume.

Avoid listing the addresses of your previous workplaces or sharing any work-related email address. While some employers do prefer to reach out to applicants by phone, consider leaving your cell phone number off of your public resume and providing it only to employers or recruiters who appear legitimate. Finally, never share your mailing address or date of birth publicly. Your city and state of residence is perfectly fine to list on a resume instead of your entire address. Likewise, no employer (other than the government) needs to know your date of birth until deep in the hiring process, so sharing such information does not help you find a job, but does expose you to threats such as identity theft.

If you are employed while job hunting, it is extra important to ensure that someone from your current workplace can’t find your resume; that situation is awkward at best and disastrous at worst. Edit the company and position information on any public resume to something accurate but generic. Describe what you do in a way that will convey your skills to future employers without showing up when your boss does a Google search.

2. Exercise caution when looking at job boards.

Refrain from posting your resume to job boards that are not secure and well-established such as Indeed, Glassdoor, or Monster. Some scammers create fake job boards solely for the purpose of stealing the information on your resume for phishing, identity theft, or other fraudulent activity. If you find a job on a less well-known job board that you can’t pass up, share the Internet-safe version of your resume, as described above, to reduce the risks if it turns out the job posting is fake.

Some more sophisticated scammers may also be able to masquerade as a real employer on a legitimate job board, so it’s a good idea to use your Internet-safe resume on these boards as well and to continue to exercise caution in your interactions with recruiters or employers on any site.

3. Never share your Social Security Number with an employer.

Unless you applied for a government job, you should never have to share your Social Security Number with an employer until you have accepted an offer and are filling out your official tax paperwork. If a recruiter or employer emails and asks for your SSN to do a background check, do not give it to them; this is a common tactic used by identity thieves who have posted fake job listings. Some legitimate employers may need to perform a background check prior to hiring, but this virtually never happens prior to an interview. If you have not sat down for an interview, do not provide your SSN to someone claiming to be an employer for any reason.

4. Use a VPN to secure your connection.

Personally, I hate applying for jobs from home, and I’m far more efficient churning out cover letters from a library or coffee shop. If you are ever using a public Wi-Fi connection to apply for jobs, it is essential to use a VPN. Attackers can use public Wi-Fi - or even poorly secured Wi-Fi in your home - to view your online activity and steal your personal information. While job hunting, you’re sharing sensitive information such as your mailing address and detailed work history with legitimate potential employers, and without a VPN, you may be sharing that information with attackers as well.

If you are cautious while looking for jobs online, you can protect your privacy without compromising your success at finding a great job. These tips will help you stay safe and secure on your hunt for new and better work opportunities.

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