By Courtney Bousquet
Senior Manager, Career Coaching
Safety in today’s world is an important concept. You have locks on your house, cameras monitoring your home and work areas, and passwords for your phone and electronic devices. But how do you keep yourself safe during your job search?
According to a 2020 Employment Scams Report, the Better Business Bureau estimates that 14 million people are exposed to employment scams each year. That figure totals more than $2 billion lost, not including time-related or emotional losses, for job seekers. It is vital to stay vigilant, secure your personal data and prevent yourself from becoming a victim of fraud during your job search online.
Job searching is one of the most important times to safeguard your personal information, as scams are becoming more common and harder to identify. Before you start your next job search, use these nine tips to protect yourself.
#1: Limit Sharing Your Personal Information
While a resume typically includes contact information, you can choose what information you share on it. I recommend that you list only your phone number, email address, and city and state of residence. You shouldn’t list your home address on your resume if it will be posted to public job boards like Indeed, Monster or ZipRecruiter.
Also, never disclose your date of birth, Social Security number, mother’s maiden name or any other personal information that scammers could use to steal your identity. When an employer is close to hiring you, you may need to supply these details for a background check or legal documents. However, never reveal this information prior to meeting and speaking with an employer.
#2: Verify Cold Contact Opportunities
Scammers are skilled at masking fake opportunities as real ones. In fact, 80% of employment scams begin with initial contact via an email or text from the scammer. Do your due diligence in researching companies and available job positions, especially if you receive an email or text from an unknown source.
Email advertisements for job positions can look legitimate. Scammers can create email addresses that mirror company addresses, but actually come from free webmail platforms.
If you are unsure about a job opportunity, double-check the email details before applying. When you hit “reply” to an email, the real address from which it was sent will appear. To determine where a hyperlink within an email will direct you, copy the link and paste it into your browser.
If you can’t tell whether an email advertisement is legitimate, go directly to the company’s job site to look up the opportunity.
#3: Scrutinize Job Descriptions and Perform Proper Research
A telltale sign that a job opportunity is fraudulent is unprofessional spelling or language. If common words and phrases are mixed up or the sender uses different colors or fonts, the opportunity is most likely a scam. Legitimate organizations will ensure communications look professional to portray the company and position in a positive manner.
If the job description looks legitimate, then your next step is to research the company and verify the job opportunity’s validity. This step is highly important, as scammers typically promote fake jobs by impersonating well-known organizations.
First, do a web search of the company to verify the job is listed on their company careers page. Then, examine the company’s website. Does it look legitimate? When was it created?
Lastly, look up the company on sites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor or even Google to see if there are real people that work there. You can also read public facts about the company and its reviews at these websites.
#4: Investigate Your Interview Location and Prepare Accordingly
Once you apply for a job at the company, check the interview’s location to ensure it is a public space or at a business office rather than a personal residence. Do not meet with individuals at an unknown home, and make sure you tell a trusted person where you are going and how long you expect to be during your in-person interview.
If you are unfamiliar with the interview location, investigate it prior to the interview. If possible, do a dry run to identify travel options, exits and private spaces to discuss personal information. For example, if the interview location is at a restaurant or public space, you can look around the site to identify exits and locate private sitting areas or conference rooms.
Many employers are now performing virtual interviews with Zoom or Microsoft Teams. To secure your personal information during an online interview, pick a space in your home that does not provide too many personal details.
Ensure your background is professional and doesn’t include photos of your family, clues about your location, and expensive electronics or other possessions that may indicate your financial standing. Once the interview concludes, ensure your camera and microphone are shut off before leaving the room to avoid any mishaps post-interview.
#5: Evaluate Your Social Media Sites
Seventy percent of employers use social media to screen prospective candidates for job opportunities, because social media profiles can reveal a lot about a person. Be careful about what you post so that you not only present a professional image to legitimate employers, but also protect your personal information.
Google yourself to ensure you are not sharing information that is too personal. This research should include an image search to determine what an employer will see when they look up your name. If you are not satisfied with your search engine results, clean up your social media profiles by adjusting your privacy settings and deleting items that employers may find unappealing.
Be sure to leave out personally identifying information like your mother’s maiden name and your full date of birth. Also, take out information such as when you are going out or details about your kids or family.
#6: Pay Attention to Communication Clues
Communication between you and any employees at the organization should be professional on both sides. If you experience rude, crude or unprofessional communication at any time, consider if you want to work for a company that allows this behavior.
#7: Never Pay for Opportunities
Prospective employers should never ask you to pay for training, their recruiters or products. Be especially cautious if an employer asks you to wire money. If an employer asks that you supply your bank account or any other financial account, do not provide this information to them, as this activity indicates a scam.
Recruiters are paid by their company, not by the job seeker. With online job platforms, employers pay to list their positions; job seekers should not pay to post their resume.
#8: Document Your Job Search
When you’re applying for jobs, write down not only those jobs so you can follow up with employers, but also record the online sites where you’ve put your resume. Document the site name and the date you uploaded it, so you know whether your resume needs to be edited or removed. If there is a security breach on a site where your resume is posted, you will know if you need to take action to protect yourself.
Ideally, never use a resume distributor service, whether it’s a person or a public job search website. Once your resume is out there on the web, you have no control over who accesses your data.
#9: Trust Your Instincts
If a job ad sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Today’s job market is a job seeker’s market. However, it has also opened the door for scammers and hackers to appeal to job hunters.
Signs that a job position is not legitimate include:
- Salaries that are much higher than the typical range
- A promise of shorter hours than normal
- A promise of better benefits
However, a quick search of the company’s website should verify its job positions. Do your research, but also trust your instincts to avoid getting scammed.
Ask Career Services If You Need Help
If you need help establishing your job search strategy, contact a University Career Coach. Our team of dedicated coaches can assist you in deciphering job announcements, provide resume feedback, perform mock interviews and even help you determine if a job ad is legitimate. For more information, contact Career Services.