A Free Educational Resource Created by Carnegie Mellon University to Empower You to Secure Your Part of Cyberspace

Personal Information and Job Search Sites

With the posting of resumes and personal profiles on job search sites, are job seekers putting their privacy at risk?

Author and researcher Pam Dixon  revealed serious privacy issues impacting job seekers during a year-long study in 2003. In some cases, resumes held by one company were sold to other Web sites, and as a result passed along any personal information those job seekers may have stored. In November 2002, HotResumes.com sold 4,941 resumes to Biotechcareers.com for about $0.33 each.

To protect personal information from being circulated unknowingly, job seekers who join job search Web sites need to check the privacy policy. A Web site must strictly adhere to its privacy policy, so be sure it specifically requires that members be informed if their information is passed to third parties.

Online job searches became widely used with the growing popularity of the Internet. In 2000, over 48 percent of Internet users had researched jobs online. By July 2002, the number of online job seekers had increased more than 60 percent, to 52 million Americans (Pew Internet and American Life Project ).

Perhaps more job seekers turn to the Internet because it proves helpful for quickly finding employment. Trends show that employers look for job candidates online, sometimes with unusual tactics. According to Wired News , the Central Intelligence Agency uses Facebook.com, a social networking site for college students, to advertise itself to job seekers. Other agencies and companies can be found recruiting on Facebook.com and similar sites, as well. But, job seekers beware. In February 2005, Money Magazine reported various ways employers have fired staff members over personal information and opinions they posted on the Internet. (See "Have a Blog, Lose your Job ".)

Job seekers should take the following precautions to protect their privacy online:

  • Never put your Social Security Number (SSN) on the resume. Sharing your SNN puts you at risk of identity theft. Employers do not need your SSN until they employ you. Particularly, be cautious of job applications that require you to give your SSN or transfer money. These "job opportunities" are ploys to dupe job seekers for easy money.
  • Avoid a job search site without a privacy policy. The privacy policy serves as legal protection. If a privacy policy doesn't exist, avoid using the Web site. For an example of privacy policy statement, view Job-Hunt.org .
  • Read the privacy policy. Before submitting a resume on a Web site, go through the privacy policy to determine how your information will be handled. Pay particular attention to how the Web site plans to use and store your resume. Make sure third parties cannot receive your information without your consent. Look for when and how the resume gets deleted. Some Web sites are legally allowed to keep resumes forever unless the user deletes it, which could cause problems if a user forgets. Finally, if you start receiving unsolicited emails from potential employers, inform the Web site to take action.
  • Keep good online profiles. Whether you are creating a profile on a social networking site, blog or job search site, always present yourself well. You never know when an employer or potential employer may seek out information about you. Also, don't reveal too much identification data that may put your privacy at risk.

A little bit of care while doing a job search can help you avoid unnecessary trouble.


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