The Dirty Dozen Dangerous Online Job Search Assumptions


The commercial Internet is now over 10 years old, and it has become a richer, but also a more complex and potentially dangerous environment. Don’t ignore the Internet in your job search, but keep your guard up. Identity theft is a major problem, and we’ve been warning job seekers about it since 1999. In this environment, you are responsible for protecting yourself. Verify before you trust!

A dozen false assumptions about the Internet and about job hunting on the Internet that may hurt you. Don’t be tricked. These assumptions are not true:

1. Every Web site can be trusted with your resume.

No! Not every “job site” really is a job site. Many sites are inept and unsophisticated, just trying to cash in on the need to find/fill a job, but I have also found completely bogus job sites, usually promoted via spam e-mail with “forged” from addresses (see # 12 below) – no jobs posted, bogus contact information, no one really “there” at all. Just a “resume form” to be completed with as much information as they can get from you. These people are up to no good and are difficult to trace. Beware!!

2. Every job site is able to ensure that only a “real employer” posts job opportunities and can search through the resume database.

Not true. Unfortunately, this is tough to do, even for the sites that try validate employers and postings. The good job sites do try to screen out fake job postings and bogus employers, but they don’t always succeed (and some don’t try very hard because it’s one of their primary revenue sources), so use a Cyber-Safe resume that suppresses your identity.

3. A Website that offers “employers” free access to their resumes is doing you a favor.

No! It is definitely not doing you a favor! If the site does not protect your identity or doesn’t allow you to use a Cyber-Safe resume, then this kind of site may only be making it easy for anyone, employer or not, to get access to your resume.

4. Every job posting represents a genuine job opportunity.

Too bad this isn’t true. As in the “real world” fake job ads are plentiful from: employers or recruiters building their resume pool, people trying to sell you something (like a home-based business or a get-rich-quick scheme), and people trying to steal your identity or rope you into some other scam.

5. Any Website which has posted a Privacy Policy is one which you can trust.

No! For 2 reasons:

First, a Privacy Policy is only the disclosure of a Website’s privacy practices. Those practices may be terrible! Like selling your resume to whoever wants to buy it or renting your e-mail and home addresses to anyone who wants to pay for them. But you won’t know unless you actually take the time to read it.

Secondly, sometimes Privacy Policies are not accurate, accidentally or not. So, a site with a very protective privacy policy may be acting in a completely different manner. Be extremely cautious about providing personal information on any Website.

6. Legitimate employers will e-mail you for pre-interview screening to qualify you for a job, requesting a copy of your driver’s license, your date of birth, bank account number, etc.

NO! This kind of “pre-employment” information is not necessary or legitimate.

There are many variations on this scam, reported by Job-Hunt, the World Privacy Forum, the RileyGuide, the news, etc. The request may seem to be in response to an application you have made on a job site, or it may just be an “employer” who has found your resume in the name-a-job-site’s database. See the links at the bottom for more information.

7. It’s okay to put your Social Security Number and date of birth on your resume.

No!! What else would someone need to steal your identity? Don’t give out that information to people you don’t know (and most people you do know)!

8. It’s okay for a Website to require or request that you provide your Social Security Number with your resume.

This is NOT okay, for the same reason as # 7, above. It is very important to keep this information private. When you have a job offer from an employer, in the U.S. you’ll be required to complete a W-2 form for the IRS. That’s when it is appropriate to ask for your SSN, and when it is appropriate to provide it. Otherwise, no.

9. Your current employer will never find your resume online, or, if they do, they won’t be upset.

Not true. Employers have always worried about employees leaving and taking clients, business, and confidential information with them out the door. The Internet hasn’t changed that, but now it’s much easier for an employer to discover your job search and retaliate.

10. If you submit your resume on an employer’s Web site, only that employer will see it.

This should be true, but it isn’t. Sometimes employers “outsource” the careers/employment section of their Website, and a resume submitted on an employer’s Website may end up in a much larger resume database searched by all of the client firms of the company providing the outsourcing. And, some sites do sell resumes to other sites. Resumes have market value to job sites, employers, and others.

11. If you send an e-mail message to someone, they always receive it or you receive a notification if they don’t; and if someone sends an e-mail to you, you always receive it.

This has never been true, but it is even less true now.

With all the unsolicited commercial e-mail (a.k.a. “spam”) being sent, most people are now protected by “spam filters,” software which identifies probable spam messages to be deleted or dumped into junk mail folders. So a message you sent may not be received (and you’ll never receive an error message). And, a message sent TO you may be diverted by your spam filter into your junk mail folder. See Job-Hunt’s “Keeping Your E-Mail Out of the Spam Filters” article for more information.

12. You can believe that the address in the “From:” field of an e-mail message is the person and/or organization which sent it, especially when it has the right logo and looks official.

Unfortunately, not true. With some e-mail software, it is very easy to “forge” the From address in an e-mail and copy the real organization’s logo and other identifying information. So that message appearing to be “from”,, PayPal, or your bank was probably sent by someone else. They want you to click on a link in the message to go to their Website where they can collect information from you.

The message (and the Website) may look completely legitimate, but they very rarely are. Using a phone number you got from a source other than the email message, call the alleged sending organization to verify that they actually sent the message before you respond.

Bottom Line

Job seekers can mitigate many of the risks associated with these assumptions by being less trusting and using an identity-suppressed resume.

For more information:

Susan P. JoyceAbout the author…

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn.
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