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Privately Seeking: Why and How to Protect Your Privacy While Job Hunting

Undeniably, visibility is a big part of the job hunting process. Creating portfolios, networking, and simply posting your resume to job seeking sites involve a level of public visibility. After all, you want potential employers to notice you and your achievements.

However, searching for a new job can also lead to a number of potential privacy issues: identity thieves using your resume to pretend to be you, recruiters digging up your past, and even current employers finding out that you are looking to leave.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure that your online presence makes you look attractive to employers without putting your privacy at risk.


1) Check your digital footprint


In 2018, a CareerBuilder survey confirmed what many of us suspected all along – employers research job candidates online before making hiring decisions.

It discovered that 70% of employers research candidates online (primarily on social networking sites). Of these, 57% have not hired candidates due to the content that they found.

While the most common types of content that cause employers to reject a candidate are things like provocative photos and discriminatory comments, a significant number of employers also pay attention to quality of communication skills and posting frequency.

Simply put, a potential employer’s first impression of you will likely be based off your digital presence and they will be actively looking for red flags.

Therefore, the first step to a more private job search is to figure out what your digital presence looks like. Is your Facebook full off photos from your college days that are visible to everyone? Does a Google search for your name turn up old forum comments that do not reflect who you are today?

Based on what you found, you can then tackle the issues at hand – adjust your privacy settings, delete old accounts, address negative reviews, etc.


2) Create a professional presence online


The one thing you DO NOT want to do, however, is try to delete your online presence completely.

In fact, having no presence online decreases your chances at landing a job almost as much as having a negative presence. About half of employers admit that they would be less willing to interview someone that they cannot find online.


Moreover, employers not only expect to find you online, but are also on the lookout for certain types of content. In particular, HR and hiring managers look for evidence that you are actually qualified and have a professional online presence.

So after you check what information about you is out there, take some time to create a positive, professional digital presence. For example, you may want to write some articles on LinkedIn, create a simple portfolio website, or join some professional forums. As a bonus, creating new content can help make less favorable content move down the list of search engine results.


3. Take advantage of job hunting websites’ privacy features


The other danger of job hunting is that individuals, other than potential employers, will find your personal information.

Depending on what information you include on your resume, you could be at risk of having your identity stolen. Unethical commission-based recruiters can also put your privacy at risk by taking your resume without permission and send it out to companies without your knowledge.  And of course, your current employer can find out that you are currently job hunting, if they come across your resume online.

One of the best things to do to avoid your resume getting into the wrong hands is to adjust the privacy features on the accounts you have on job search websites.

Most websites, such as Indeed and Monster, will allow you adjust whom your resume is visible to. Since employers are charged a fee to access the resume database, setting your resume to being only visible to employers may be a good idea.  Usually, you can also prevent specific companies (such as your current employer) from viewing your resume. There might even be an option to have companies only contact you through the website, without giving out your email address. 


4. Adjust LinkedIn Settings


It is no secret that Linkedin has become the leading tool for networking and job hunting. Around 90% of recruiters regularly use LinkedIn to search for candidates, leading to over 122 million interviews and 35.5 million hirings.

Unfortunately, the numerous privacy settings the site has can become confusing and tedious to adjust. However, some of these settings may allow third parties, including researchers, to access some of your information and even target you with advertising. Therefore, it is a good idea to go through all the settings, so that you can decide what you are comfortable with.

At the very least, you should take the time to adjust the privacy settings that may reveal to your current employer that you are searching for a new job.

The most common ways that someone can figure if you are searching for jobs on LinkedIn is by looking at your profile updates, posts, recent connections, and groups you join. By taking the time to change the visibility of just these four things, you can help ensure that your boss does not find out that you are looking for other opportunities.


5. Consider using an email address just for your resume


There are a number of reasons why you may want to consider setting up an email address just for your job hunt. It can help ensure that you do not miss any emails from recruiters, especially if you tend to get many emails. Similarly, it can make prioritizing replies easier, ensuring that you do not forget to reply to potential employers or recruiters. Perhaps most importantly, if the email address does get in the wrong hands or is compromised, your main email address will remain unaffected.

Overall, spending a few minutes creating a new email address just for your resume can save you more time in the long run.


6. Ask previous employer to delete your personal data


If you are from the European Union or worked for a company that is located in the EU, you can request that your previous employer delete the personal data they hold about you.

While companies are legally obligated to retain some data, they should delete any data that is no longer necessary. For example, they should delete data that was collected for the purposes of evaluating your productivity.  Similarly, they should remove data about job performance issues that is no longer relevant.

Although this is not necessarily a part of the job hunting process and organizations should already be deleting data that is no longer necessary, it is still good practice to minimize the amount of personal data out there about you. After all, you never know who might gain access to that information or if a data breach might occur.

Although job hunting involves a level of public visibility, finding a new job should not come at the price of your privacy. By taking some precautionary steps, you can prevent your personal information from affecting your employment options or from falling into the wrong hands.

Happy job hunting and don’t forget about your privacy!

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