Maintain Your Privacy

What should you include in your online profile? This article addresses how to balance the need to provide information to employers via social media, and the need to protect your privacy. Recruiters and employers need information to make decisions about interviews, hiring, and promotions, but identity thieves, marketing spammers, and computer hackers can take advantage of those who provide too much information which may cause major havoc to their personal lives. This is a balancing act since you do not want to make your information so obscure that employers are unable to contact you.

Resumes at a Glance – Privacy and Piracy

I recently reviewed a resume that I could only shake my head at and wonder if the person was really trying to find a job. The person had been to an Identity Theft conference and one of the sessions made numerous recommendations on how to secure your resume to prevent identity theft. They had taken these recommendations to an extreme with their resume and the resulting document was obscure and a little spooky. They had no address, no company names, no college names, no phone number and…no real chance of getting a job based on this, eh, information-less resume.

The underlying problem is that a resume must convey a reasonable amount of information to the reader, which might be moderately contrary to an identity specialist's recommendations. For example, as mentioned above, some security experts discourage you from listing the name of your college where you got your degree. I think that is going a bit far, as the likelihood of someone stealing your identity based on your college degree info (degree name, school name, and year) is very slim, yet not listing this rather common and useful data on your resume is very limiting to your successful job search.

What DON'T you publish? For privacy/piracy issues, there are a few key items to avoid putting on your resume – most are quite logical:

  • Social Security Number
  • Full legal name (just use first and last name)
  • Birth date
  • Account numbers (checking, savings, credit cards, etc.)
  • Drivers License number
  • Passport / Green Card number
  • Personal financial information (prior salaries, bonuses, hourly rate, etc.)

There are other things that some people suggest also leaving off, and while I do not disagree, it is not really an identity theft issue, rather it is mostly a discrimination or privacy issue:

  • Marital status
  • Names of spouse or children
  • Height and weight
  • Age
  • Hair and eye color
  • Gender
  • Mother's maiden name
  • Home street address
  • Home phone number
  • Work email

I talked with a couple of security experts and we cannot really justify some of these items listed above under a piracy protection. Still, leaving them off for discrimination purposes might make sense:

  • Height and weight – while people that are overweight or very short might be discriminated against, these are visually available features (I can look at you and guess these) so these are not items easily secreted. It is pretty unlikely that it would be on a resume, but I have seen it on a model's resume and it is probably common for other professions.

  • Home address – there are too many ways for this to be easily located. A simple Google search turns up most people's address and phone number. If you do choose to leave your street address off your resume, at least put your city and state on the resume.

  • Home phone number – too easy for most people to find it almost anywhere on the web (yellow pages, white pages, etc.). But still, as a privacy issue, it is best if people are not calling your home address when you are not answering…put your cell phone number on your resume.

Like I said, the problem is that there is a lot of your information on the web that you probably never knew was there. I found my birthday listed on a Department of Motor Vehicles web site; my home address is listed in several "Who Is" listings because of the website names I have registered; a non-profit site listed my donations and credit card name (no account number); I even came across most of my employment information on the website of a college I recently attended.

While I cannot guarantee that your identity could not be stolen from your resume, if you are in a serious job hunt (not just trolling for a better opportunity), your resume must not be a roadblock in this process. Yet you can still take some reasonable cautions when writing your resume, but do not go overboard.

Remember these guides:

  • If someone can look at you or a photograph of you and get physical information (height, etc.), it is probably not worth hiding.

  • If you did an Internet search, any identity information about you that shows up more than once is probably not worth hiding.

  • If you can find the info in a phone book, on a Girl Scouts cookie order form, or on the face of your checks (written to you or on ones you wrote to others), then it is probably not worth hiding.

  • If it is something you would write in a Christmas card to friends, associates, or relatives, it is probably not worth hiding.

Bottom Line:

A resume is a personal marketing tool used to solicit interest in contacting you…do not make it too difficult. If the recruiters cannot get to you easily, they will go elsewhere. Have two resumes – one with limited info you post on the Internet and one with more complete info that you send to specific contacts. No sense in hiding things that are common (like what I can determine from a photograph of you or what a co-worker can tell me about you), but take care to hide or start restricting the distribution of information that only creditors should know.

Source: C.J. Trayser,
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License.

Last modified: Tuesday, August 18, 2020, 12:50 PM