Three Ways to Secure Your Job Search from Identity Theft

Last Updated Apr 19, 2010 3:13 PM EDT

No two ways about it: You've got to put yourself out there to get a job. But in this era of electronic data breaches and identity theft, how secure is the information you're providing potential employers on your resume and other documents?

In an article for TheLadders titled "Resume Insecurity," veteran tech writer Lisa Vaas examines the software vulnerabilities and human foibles that may leave job seekers' personal data exposed:

"Interviews with hiring professionals confirm the anecdotal evidence: Even recruiting agencies that use sophisticated applicant tracking system (ATS) software to store and protect job applications often leave the applications open to theft by allowing access to anybody and everybody who walks by an unsecured terminal; companies leave sensitive information moldering in unlocked closets accessible to all; and job applicants' data gets left on laptops that get stolen and on USB thumb drives that get misplaced."

And in an accompanying piece called "How to Protect Your Resume from Identity Theft," Vaas enumerates some defensive steps that HR professionals and security experts recommend.

  • It's OK to say no. Job seekers in this tight market are sometimes too willing to accommodate requests for information. Ellen B. Vance, senior consultant and advisory services practice leader at Titan Group, an HR consultancy in Richmond, Va., recommends that, before receiving a job offer, job seekers should omit any fields on forms that ask for sensitive information such as Social Security numbers. "It's OK to leave that blank and say you'd be happy to provide that at time of hire," said Vance. "There's nothing a prospective employer needs that data for." And recruiter Lorne Epstein suggests candidates omit their home addresses from their resumes. "Mostly people are getting communicated with by e-mail and by phone" anyway, she said.
  • Watch your step. Vance warns job seekers to look carefully at the job listings to which they're applying. To identify legitimate job listings, use reputable sites and look for job postings that identify the company posting the listing. "If you're not sure whether it's a bona fide (listing), don't apply," Vance recommended. "Or send a request for additional information."
  • Never send copies. Once a job offer comes, candidates should also avoid providing copies of documents used for I-9 purposes, such as passports or birth certificates. Employers can legally record the documents' information, but don't hand over photocopies that can be mishandled.
  • Matthew TheLadders

    Matthew Rothenberg is editor-in-chief for TheLadders, the world's leading online service catering exclusively to the $100K+ job market. In addition to traditional job search services, TheLadders.com also provides a host of specialized career development resources. Previously he worked at Ziff Davis Media, ZDNet, CNET, and Hachette Filipacchi.