Understandably, many executive job seekers struggle with putting themselves “out there” on social media. Some worry about online safety and protecting their privacy. Some just don’t understand how important online presence is.
This becomes a sticky issue . . . whether or not they must keep their search confidential because they’re currently employed.
On the one hand, they need to have a strong, diverse online presence to be “find-able”, to promote their personal brand, and to provide social proof of the claims they’ve made in their personal marketing materials (LinkedIn profile, resume, biography, etc.).
Executive recruiters and hiring decision makers source candidates online, via LinkedIn mostly, but also elsewhere.
On the other hand, job seekers need to be careful about what they put out there. Their information will be prey to nefarious people, as well as legitimate people.
So it’s easy for job seekers to confuse controlled online presence-building with haphazard blasting of personal information online.
Think twice before using job boards
And job boards can leave you wide open to scammers and identity theft. Scam job listings abound, designed to cull personal information from unsuspecting, and sometimes desperate, job seekers.
Applications on these sites sometimes require you to provide very sensitive personal information. Or you may have included sensitive information in the resume you post to job boards.
If scammers and identity thieves have gotten hold of your social security number, they can easily piece together all they’ll need to steal your identity if they find your birthdate and/or phone number and/or home address somewhere online.
True, your address may be very easy to find with a simple Google search of your name. But providing further tidbits just makes it easier for bad people to harm you.
All the more reason to invest your time in the best way to land a good-fit job – targeting and research, followed by networking your way into those target employers.
Conversely, you don’t want to keep your job search so private that you have no online presence.
How to Protect Your Online Safety and Privacy in Job Search
To build an online presence, you need to have a social media strategy.
Create a realistic plan for posting frequency and what content you’ll post.
As you use social media, always keep this in mind:
Don’t put anything publicly online that you wouldn’t want your family or boss to see. And be very careful about where you share any personal and/or identifying information about yourself.
First, check your online safety right now
Self-googling is something you should be doing regularly, to see what people assessing you as a candidate are finding.
Since you’re about to work on your online safety and privacy, do a Google search on “your name” right now.
Do you find anything that contains any of the sensitive information listed below? Maybe an event you attended years ago shows up and includes photos and identifying info about you, or maybe your birthday shows up somewhere.
If so, experts suggest the following:
“Where possible, update these pages to remove or password-protect information that you don’t want to be public. If the page allows a login but you’ve forgotten your password, try resetting it; if that doesn’t work, or someone else maintains the site, look for a contact page and try emailing the site administrator or customer support.”
And some more expert online safety advice:
Audit your apps.
“Some apps, especially free ones, make money by selling your data to advertisers, data brokers, or the government. The good news is that you can manage access to your data by going to your phone’s privacy and security menu and looking for “Safety Check” (on an iPhone) or “Permissions Manager” (on Android).
Go through app by app and disable any permissions that seem overreaching. (You may decide that you’re happy manually entering your address when you want takeout.) Pay special attention to what you’ve allowed apps to do “in the background” (that’s a slightly obfuscatory way of describing apps’ tracking you even when you’re not using them) and anything that makes reference to “third parties” (that can be another term for data brokers).”
Be careful with any personal and identifying information
When creating profiles for your social media accounts, you may be asked compromising questions. To run a relatively cyber-safe job search, never provide the following information in emails or anywhere online that may not be absolutely secure:
- Birthdate – if you can’t join an important social networking site without providing this, make one up, using a different month, day, and year. (Don’t forget to make note of the date somewhere for your future use.)
- Social security number
- Driver’s license number
- Bank account numbers
- Credit card information
- PayPal account number
- Mother’s maiden name
- Spouse’s name
- Home address
- Town where you were born
In most cases, you should not provide any of this information to employers until you have accepted a job offer.
Further Online Safety and Privacy Tips and Advice
LinkedIn allows you to upload your resume to your profile. Don’t put any of the above sensitive information in it.
Set up a designated email account for your job search. Don’t make the mistake of using your work email, especially if you’re job-hunting undercover. Best practice: Get a private email account tied to the domain name “yourname.com” from a domain hosting service like GoDaddy.
If you use Facebook and other social media for personal conversations and to post personal photos, set up a separate account, with a different account name than the one you’ll use for job search.
Take a close look at any of the verifying questions you’re asked when you create ANY online account . . . personal or professional.
With queries like “what is your mother’s maiden name?” or “what city were you born in?“, make up an answer. The real answers are important pieces of identifying information that can be used by hackers and other nefarious people to steal your identity. Just be sure you remember your made-up answer for future use.