The erosion of privacy for jobseekers

| August 9, 2012

It’s a fine line between private and public these days and some jobseekers have found that out the hard way. Carolyn Smith says that while many may lament the widespread Googling of candidates it’s the reality of the modern jobs market.

Picture the typical scenario playing out across offices in Australia. The recruiter or HR Officer makes a shortlist of resumes and then Google’s the job candidate.

They are not necessarily looking for ‘digital dirt’, but looking for clues in the online presence, with the online presence effectively being the ‘online resume’. From tweets, blogs, web profiles, images, LinkedIn, Facebook, and status updates, a profile of the job candidate is being established.

If any dirt pops up, inappropriate photographs, presence in seedy forums or information that paints the job candidate in a negative light (e.g. a tweet complaining about work, recreational drug use, sexual or drunken weekend exploits), then the candidate will find their resume designated to the ‘do not interview pile’.

Privacy advocates might be up in arms about such a process, but the reality of the modern age is that anything on the Internet is currently fair game, even if this information about the job candidate is false, inaccurate, misleading or totally irrelevant to their ability to perform a specific job or task.

Most job seekers are unaware of the level of scrutiny they are subject to. While many understand the importance of removing private information on resumes (e.g. date of birth, photographs, marital status or hobbies), people fail to realise the impact of disclosing personal details online.

But this is not the only way potential employers are checking candidates. While under privacy legislation, employers need to get job candidates to consent in writing, before authorising any background checks, most candidates are unaware of the extend and depth of these background checks (who reads the fine print, especially when your dream job beckons). Background checks cover everything from credit checks, criminal records, verifying qualifications and places of employment. With an estimated 1 in 4 candidates exaggerating or blurring the lines on their resume, increasingly employers are using background checks.

Then there is the risk of a job candidate falling prey to the Internet sharks, and con artists. With resumes posted online with personal details attached (e.g. date of birth) and jobs posted by con artists to elicit details such as bank account details, even credit card details in the promise of work in return, many Australian’s are falling prey to online criminals.

So what steps can job candidates take to reduce this invasion of privacy?

Read the fine print: When signing a job application authorising a background check, read the fine print. If uncertain, ask questions. 

Be aware of online fraud: If unnecessary information is requested, such as bank account number, mother’s maiden name, etc. (especially online) – be very wary, as no potential employer needs that detail up front.

Google your name and get rid of digital dirt: Google your name and check what comes up about you, and if necessary remove all material that could make a bad impression.

Review your personal settings on all social media: It is vital to review all privacy settings, so that your private life does not become public (such as Facebook and online dating sites).

Improve your online profile: If you use Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, make sure there is nothing on these pages that could be detrimental to your reputation. Instead use these tools to enhance your online profile, so you become the ‘must have’ job candidate.

The reality is that today’s jobseeker cannot necessarily hide from their mistakes, their criminal records, even their dating profiles and everything else in-between on the Internet. But job candidates can take proactive steps to protect their online privacy and use the Internet to promote themselves by developing a positive ‘online footprint’. 

Carolyn Smith is a career transition and job search support specialist, with advanced international credentials in resume writing, job interview coaching and behavioural consulting. An acknowledge career expert, Carolyn specialises in working with senior job candidates, including managers, professionals and executives. Author of the best selling book ‘How to GET IN and GET PROMOTED in the Public Service Sector and the blog ‘Boost your Career’, Carolyn has assisted countless senior job seekers secure their ideal job or promotion.