How Your Job Hunt May Be Harming Your Privacy

James Frew 23-10-2017

Gone are the days of grabbing the local paper and circling jobs in the classifieds section. In the internet age, the majority of job postings are online. It’s not just postings either, nearly the entire recruitment process happens at the command of a keystroke. Remote working has become more common, as the internet has opened up opportunities to work from anywhere in the world.


No longer do you head to your local job center, meet the hiring manager, and hand them a paper resume. Simply, the internet has changed everything. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s better.

Here’s why the recruitment sector’s lax security, invasion of privacy, and lack of transparency could harm you in the long run.

Recruitment Security Soup

In our regular lives we wouldn’t walk up to a total stranger and recount our entire employment history, address, and interests. However, it’s what we are expected to do when it comes to online job searches. Instead of developing a relationship with your local recruitment manager, you are cajoled into sharing confidential and personal information on a recruitment website. In the modern employment marketplace, you have to go to where the jobs are, and because the market is fragmented there is no one central data repository.

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Job hunting is understandably stressful, and leads to you signing up to a handful of different recruitment websites 7 Big Job Search Engines to Help You Find Work Searching for the next good job is a continuous activity for many of us. Start your job search on seven of the biggest job search engines on the web. Read More in order make your applications. This dispersal of personal data is extremely helpful during your job search. However, once you are happily employed it’s likely to be forgotten. Unlike a username and password which should be unique to each site, your resume and employment history is fixed across every site. If a breach were to happen then that information would be freely available and unchangeable.


Arguably you could level these same criticisms at the majority of websites that handle your data. You don’t have to look far for demonstrations of corporate disregard for security practices. Equifax Equihax: One of the Most Calamitous Breaches of All Time The Equifax breach is the most dangerous, and embarrassing, security breach of all time. But do you know all the facts? Have you been affected? What can you do about it? Find out here. Read More , OneLogin The OneLogin Hack Was Serious and It Taught Us a Lesson Password managers make life easier, but keeping such vital information in one place can be dangerous. Case in point: OneLogin, hacked in May 2017. What happened? And how can you keep your passwords secure from... Read More , and the WannaCry epidemic The Global Ransomware Attack and How to Protect Your Data A massive cyberattack has struck computers around the globe. Have you been affected by the highly virulent self-replicating ransomware? If not, how can you protect your data without paying the ransom? Read More are just a few recent examples. Given the often overwhelming volume of security breaches, it can be tempting to turn to apathy and give into security fatigue 3 Ways to Beat Security Fatigue and Stay Safe Online Security fatigue -- a weariness to deal with online security -- is real, and it's making many people less secure. Here are three things you can do to beat security fatigue and keep yourself safe. Read More . However, recruitment websites hold data that is more personal and confidential than many others. If any of the sites you had entrusted your address, employment history, and social security numbers to suffer a breach, the fix isn’t as straightforward as changing a password.

The Resume Runaround

In days gone by, your resume was the way to land yourself a job. These days it is still important, even if it is supplemented by your recruitment website profiles. Although employers reportedly only spend six seconds glancing at your well-crafted resume, it allows you to put across your personality, priorities, and skills in a way that text boxes on a form don’t allow. Your resume is your professional highlights reel, giving focus to what you want to project to a specific set of potential employers.

job hunt harm privacy
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One way to stand out in a crowded and competitive marketplace is to create a tailored resume for each job opportunity. Privacy in our personal lives Why Online Privacy Matters and 5 Ways to Reclaim It Privacy threats are all around us. Today, the impact and dangers of online privacy breaches are major. These few resources explain the pitfalls clearly and concisely. Read More allows us to vent, joke, and open up to specific groups or individuals without compromising or changing our other relationships. The rationale for a tailored resume is the similar. It allows us to present a version of ourselves that suits a particular opportunity. Given the complex and personal nature of a resume, it’s a document that we — rightly — guard and take care of.


Of course, in the midst of applying for jobs, protecting your resume isn’t likely to be a high priority. The goal of job hunting is to get your resume in front of as many hiring managers as possible, and even in the digital age that hasn’t changed. Once a physical paper copy of your resume has outlived its usefulness, it finds a home in the shredder or trash can. However, the internet never forgets. Online resumes have the unintended consequence of leaving a digital trail.

One that may affect your chances of finding yourself a job in the future.

The Privacy Predicament

If you wanted to purge the internet of your out of date resumes you will run into a problem — you have no idea where they are. Many of the websites offer employers or recruitment consultants access to a resume search. This allows them to filter candidates and download resumes for reference later. This feature is a double-edged sword — it allows your resume to be seen by more employers but removes all transparency on where your data is going. A major concern here is recruitment consultants, many of whom offer resume search services for their own clients. This means your resume could end up three or four levels away from the original recruitment website, and without any means to trace its journey.

However, your resume is only one part of the privacy puzzle. It is in the site’s best interest to persuade you to share as much of your personal information as possible. Completing your profile provides the site with data, but you are in control of how much you feel comfortable disclosing. A closer look at the way each site operates though shows how opaque the world of online data collection really is, and it starts as soon as you decide to sign up.


Lack of Control

To make signup easier, many recruitment websites have social login buttons displayed on the signup page. Social logins allow you to bypass the process of creating a new username and password Using Social Login? Take These Steps to Secure Your Accounts If you're using a social login service (such as Google or Facebook) then you might think everything is secure. Not so -- it's time to take a look at the weaknesses of social logins. Read More . Instead, you authorize the website to login with Facebook, Google, or Twitter and your account is ready to go. The social networks don’t provide this service out of the goodness of their hearts, so expect there to be some form of tracking Facebook Is Tracking You! Here's How to Stop It Many entities are tracking your internet activity, including social media sites like Facebook. Here's what you need to know. Read More . Before you make the decision to save a few seconds, take a look at the site’s Privacy Policy. These are usually tedious documents but contain a lot of important information on how your data is used. If having to create a new password frustrates you, then you could generate a secure one with a password manager 7 Clever Password Manager Superpowers You Have to Start Using Password managers carry a lot of great features, but did you know about these? Here are seven aspects of a password manager you should take advantage of. Read More .

Lurking in Shadows

The Privacy Policy will also outline how your data is shared between third parties. In most cases this means advertisers, but it could also be with social networks. Many Privacy Policies are purposefully vague on who they share the data with. This is partly to prevent you being put off, but also to allow them scope to expand their data collection in the future. In line with many online businesses, recruitment websites typically gather your data to sell to advertisers. Advertisement data sharing is particularly problematic as advertisers usually hold shadow profiles Facebook Shadow Profiles: You Probably Have One Too [Weekly Facebook Tips] You think you're not on Facebook? Think again. Facebook no doubt has a shadow profile made just for you. You may recall recently that Facebook found a bug exposing personal details of 6 million user... Read More of you. The shadow profile contains information they think is accurate and could include your interests, people you may know, and even your sexual orientation.

job hunt harm privacy
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If only it was just advertisers that create shadow profiles. However, the well known recruitment website Monster states in its Privacy Policy that they “may collect information about you from publicly-available websites. [They] may use this information to create a profile, even if you do not have an account with [them], or append it to an existing profile.” Shadow profiles are an issue because they make inferences on you without your consent, knowledge, or ability to modify them. The recruitment industry is known to suffer the ill-effects of discrimination, and shadow profiles only compound the problem. What’s worse, shadow profiles aren’t necessarily accurate, but may be used to make decisions relating to your future employment.


Networking With Added Social

Recruiters and hiring managers learnt pretty fast how to exploit our collective addiction to oversharing online. Having a quick Google for a candidate and poking around in their Facebook profile has become another metric to judge their suitability Should Job Seekers Be Careful Of Social Media Background Checks By Employers? [Opinion] Background checks have been part of hiring processes for long. Google Search as a background check started few years back. Things have got far serious since then as companies are actively looking at your Facebook... Read More for the job. The practice is so commonplace that you need to clean up your social media profiles Clean Up Your Facebook Account Before You Go Looking For Work By now we’re all aware that it’s important to be professional online, that employers have the ability to do background checks based through our social media accounts. And also that many people, though they know... Read More before applying for a job. Some employers have even attempted to force candidates to hand over their social networking passwords. Fortunately, this is generally considered to be on the wrong side of the law.

Even more concerning is that large social networks are attempting to muscle in on the recruitment space. The most successful is LinkedIn, which has become a major staple of professional networking and job hunting. LinkedIn was hacked in 2012 What You Need To Know About the Massive LinkedIn Accounts Leak A hacker is selling 117 million hacked LinkedIn credentials on the Dark web for around $2,200 in Bitcoin. Kevin Shabazi, CEO and founder of LogMeOnce, helps us to understand just what is at risk. Read More , and has always had a spotty history of protecting your privacy Should You Accept LinkedIn Invites from Strangers? A recent survey found that 24% of LinkedIn users have connected with strangers, despite LinkedIn's repeated warnings not to. Could this explain how LinkedIn has become a vector for spear-phishing and other scams? Read More . It was acquired in 2016 by Microsoft, who themselves are unlikely to be granted goodwill for their surreptitious data collection Privacy and Windows 10: Your Guide to Windows Telemetry With the advent of the Windows 10 Creator's Update, Microsoft seems to have decided to be more transparent about their data gathering activities. Find out how much is gathered, and what you can do. Read More . Keen not to be outdone, Facebook added a jobs search engine Is Jobs on Facebook the Best Job Search Engine in 2017? Jobs on Facebook lets you search for openings through your favorite social network. But is it a good way to find a new job? We take a detailed look. Read More to their already bloated social network. Not to be left out, Google launched their own Google for Jobs only a few months later.

job hunt harm privacy
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Business Insider recently reported that Facebook may allow users to upload their resume, putting them in direct competition with LinkedIn. Given Facebook’s less-than-stellar track record on privacy All the Ways You Can't Trust Facebook As of June 2017, Facebook has over two billion active users. But despite superficial changes, Facebook also still has a problem respecting privacy and protecting your data. Read More , this move to blend personal and professional is a cause of concern. That’s not to say that all these tools don’t have value when searching for your next job. After all, networking is integral to the job hunting process. However, with recruitment companies and social networks aping for each other’s business, expect to see your privacy erode even further as the boundaries between your personal and professional lives continue to blur.

Who Can You Trust?

In virtually all online activities we make some level of compromise. As the saying goes: if it’s free, then you are the product. This is true across social networking and increasingly in the recruitment industry. In return for dramatically increasing the employment opportunities available to you for free, the websites will turn your data to their advantage. Whether you view this as a fair trade will likely be dependent on your own circumstances. However, it seems unlikely many of us would willingly miss out on the perfect job due to these concerns.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t value to be gained from knowing what happens to your data. Using unique passwords on each website may protect you when the next major breach happens. If you find a particularly disagreeable Privacy Policy, simply take your data elsewhere. You likely won’t miss out as recruiters often post positions to multiple websites. If all of this has given you pause for thought, then maybe you’d consider a different approach. After all, when it comes to job hunting, your success may ultimately be down to who you know How to Build a Professional Network You'll Actually Use Social networking is a vital skill for our workplace happiness. But how can you do it without stressing yourself out? These tips can improve your career and your life with your own professional network. Read More .

Have you used online recruitment agencies? What has been your experience? Do you think they should be doing more to protect your privacy and security? Let us know in the comments!

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Related topics: Job Searching, Online Privacy, Online Security, Resume.

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  1. Zhong
    October 24, 2017 at 2:57 am

    As long as you knows what they will be doing with that information, either through their T&C or recruitment inquiry then there's at least some comfort that your information at least goes through a tunnel.