You might think uploading your personal information to job websites is a worthy reason to ignore your privacy, but experts say you should think again. Some of the largest and well-known job search sites have been documented collecting and selling the personal information of users. It’s also likely that thousands of companies are now using your personal information for everything but finding you a legitimate job. Here are some tips to help keep your personal information private while searching for a new job.
Job Search Sites
You spent all of that time creating that account on a job search site, filling out the profile, and adding your resume, but was all that effort for a real job or just providing juicy personal details to potential marketing sources? The reality is that the dynamic for employers and job-seekers is always changing, which means you have to be smart with technology. The same technology that can help you get a job can also instantly spread your personal information all over the web.
Do you ever wonder why these sites are free? There is always a catch and it often involves some form of collecting your information and selling it to others. Some of the top job search sites have also allowed unethical companies and individuals to gain access to your information.
In 2007, Reuters reported that unethical companies accessed CareerBuilder data and used it to find details about individual wealth and potential customers – not for job candidates. Around that time, people started to realize that there were more job offers than legitimate jobs (problem).
It’s not necessarily always the fault of job search sites, but they weren’t born yesterday – they know what’s going on with their user’s information. It’s also a matter of who accesses your information, which isn’t always a potential employer (reality). Daily Kos has also highlighted the fact that major job websites have become more of a marketing ground than actual job source for candidates.
ABC 7 in Chicago (2015) did a great story about fake jobs appearing on networking sites, such as LinkedIn. Websites with millions of users are prime targets for scam listings. In 2015, Fortune also highlighted that according to the Better Business Bureau, “fake opportunities now outnumber real ones by about 60 to 1.” Most work-from-home jobs are also a scam – and they can even make it all the way to a state employment job site (here’s another NBC report about it). A weak economy and high unemployment means networking and job websites are a prime breeding ground for fake jobs and scams.
Be prepared mostly for irrelevant (and annoying) marketing emails and calls, not actual job opportunities, if you sign up at most job websites and provide your email and phone number to them.
Fake Jobs & Scams
Online job sites are inundated with illegitimate job openings and scam artists. It’s very difficult to tell the difference, if you’re not careful. Legitimate jobs will come from known sources, often have a website, allow you to apply directly, and shouldn’t have a problem when you call them (first) to ask details about the opening.
Protip: you can spot a fake job opening/scam by asking for details, including the name of the company that has the opening, the hiring manager’s contact information, job description, start date, pay rate, etc. If someone is unable to answer these questions or becomes angry with you for asking – something is wrong! If you have to pay for a job site or application, it’s a scam. Run away!
ULTRA TechLife has previously witnessed hundreds of fake jobs posted by some of the most common “headhunter” contract agencies. We previously contacted these major contract agencies and we were told that the listings were to attract potential applicants for a “pool” and that the jobs “didn’t exist.” Despite notifying multiple state authorities in 2008, 2009, and 2010, little to no interest was given in solving this obvious unethical, illegal, and misleading practice (and it’s occurring in every state). Today, this practice continues and it makes it very difficult for real job applicants to find real job opportunities.
Essentially, we have found that thousands of “fake” or “unauthorized” job postings are being continuously created by various scammers as well as unethical (potentially illegal) activity via contract and temporary agencies. We found that numerous jobs were posted to major job search sites without authorization from the actual company (not legit). We also found that these agencies were often unable to discuss any actual details of much of their job postings, including basic job titles, duties, pay rate, name of the company, etc.
We went even further by attending several “job interviews” undercover and found similar conclusions. These job interviews began as seemingly normal conversations in the hiring process, until we found out there was no actual position open and that this is all just to bring in “potential candidates” as a “live poll” technique, in order for the company to market itself as having qualified applicants.
ULTRA TechLife encourages you to contact your state officials and representatives, if you experience contract agencies providing you with false information, specifically regarding jobs that do not exist or that they are not authorized to hire for.
For example, in 2010 and 2011, ULTRA TechLife discovered an unknown contract agency posting openings on a major job search site, indicating that they were hiring for Northrop Grumman. We communicated with Northrop Grumman and discovered that they had no idea about the contract agency (was not a partner or authorized to represent them) and that no such position existed. Thankfully, we were aware of this scam because the contract agency had asked for a social security number, bank account information, home address, age, and a copy of a driver’s license (for security clearance – bogus). These are red flags that every job hunter should be aware of.
Job Applicants Frustrated
There are thousands of people looking for jobs and the last thing they want is to waste their time or rely on false hope. Although job application submissions are digital these days, it still makes sense to do your part, as an informed consumer, and determine which job opportunities are legitimate. It makes perfect since to email or call an actual company to ask about openings and specifics, especially before filling out a lot of paperwork.
One of the problems with using job search websites is the fact that job opportunities might not be listed by the actual company and you don’t really know where your information goes.
Erin Long of Atlanta, Ga recently emailed us to discuss her experience with a new cell phone number and just one week of job searching. Nobody knew her number, not even her family. Somehow, after posting her resume to a top job website, she began receiving numerous calls, but not from employers. “That’s f&^*ed up. I did a profile and applied to a few jobs. I got calls from banks about loans, private schools wanting me to get a degree, contests, fake IRS calls, and even a call that said I better pay money or my computer would get a virus,” said Long.
Long’s experience isn’t unusual, it’s common. If you’re not careful, your personal information can quickly find itself in the hands of criminals around the world.
Interesting Legal Language
Without naming some of the specific top job search websites, users should beware about terms of service language, which does not clearly indicate whether any of your personal information (or metadata) is sold to third parties. Some of the language on top websites also seems to indicate that users consent to giving up their privacy and allowing their information to be sold to others by simply using the website, filling out search forms, etc. Consider the personal information you upload “for sale”, if you post it to a public job search site.
What Should I Upload?
Most job search sites allow you to fill out a profile and upload a resume document. This also allows the website service to charge employers, if they want to access your contact details. However, if you upload a resume with your contact details (e.g., phone number, email) or within profile text, it may be visible to anyone.
You should never upload social security numbers, account numbers, even your home address. This information can be indexed by various robots on the web and even make it around the world – into the hands of criminals. You have to be smart about what information you upload.
Remove any personal details from your resume and profile, such as home phone number, address, etc. One of the worst things you could do is post your cell phone number to the internet. Be prepared for random, unwanted calls and scams – not legitimate job offers.
How will people contact me? When you use major job search sites, they can hide your contact information, until an employer pays them to see it. It’s really important to realize that many employers (especially unskilled work, entry-level, below $65k/year DO NOT search for candidates – candidates go to them). If an employer really likes your resume, they can pay to get your information from the job search site or they can simply email you. Email is one of the best ways to communicate.
Your best bet is to send your resume to legitimate people at the actual company you’re interested working for – not random job search sites, contract agencies, or through searchable public profiles. Keep in mind that many of the job search websites and public profiles are publicly searchable, which means anyone can find you information – even outside of the job website.