Data security has become a hot issue over the past few years. It seems we can’t go more than a few weeks before hearing about another data leak from some company or another. And while organizations have a responsibility to keep your data safe, as an individual there are steps you can take to protect yourself as well. That’s especially true when you’re searching for a job. When looking for work, you often deal with personal information such as your contact information, address, and personal identification. All of those things can be dangerous if they get into the wrong hands. It’s important to use common sense and make sure you follow basic data security practices when you’re looking for work.
1. avoid open networks when performing job hunting activities
In every coffee shop in the country there are open WiFi networks that will connect you to the web. When you’re dealing with secure data, avoid jumping on these open networks. Though the chance of something happening is low, why expose yourself or your data to that risk? Instead, if you need to quickly upload your resume to apply to a job while you’re out, try creating a hotspot using your phone’s data plan, since you can password protect it. Also, make sure to password protect your Bluetooth transmissions, because that's another easy way to gain access to your private data. When using free, open Internet connections, stick to benign activities. Avoid job hunting activities (like filling out an application with personal info about you), online banking, or making online purchases that will expose sensitive information.
2. don’t include personal information on your resume or applications
Never include personal information on your resume that could be used to hack into personal accounts or answer security questions for various online accounts. This includes your birthdate, social security number, your mother’s maiden name, and anything else you might have used in a security question. This also includes your home address. If you have your phone number and email address on your resume, those are the methods that potential employers will use to contact you. There’s no added value to including your address on your resume. It just makes it easier for employers to assess the neighborhood you live in and for your personal address to get into the wrong hands. So remove your address from your resume. If a potential employer requests your address, be wary. Until you sign a job offer and become an official employee, there’s very few legitimate reasons why they would need to know this information.
3. only apply to reputable employers
When you need a job, sometimes you can get caught up in applying to any and all jobs, just hoping to find an income stream. This behaviour can be risky. Maybe you found a contract job on Craigslist, or a full-time position with a company you've never heard of, or maybe the company’s website looks fishy. Don’t ignore your instincts that something’s up. If you’re suspicious, there’s a good chance there’s a reason. It’s not difficult to create a template website and set up a job ad for nefarious purposes. If you don’t know the company, and it seems ‘off’, trust your instincts and do some research before handing over your resume and personal information.
4. always tell someone when you’re on a job interview
When you’re meeting new people, whether for a date or a job interview, it never hurts to let a friend or family member know what’s happening. This is especially true if you’re going somewhere unusual that you wouldn’t normally. Today, most first meetings and interviews today are done in a public space (such as a coffee shop or a crowded office), but if you are interviewing for a new job in a location off the beaten path, it’s a good idea to tell someone where and when you are going. Chances are nothing will happen and it will be an unnecessary precaution, but if nothing else, you’ll have someone you can call afterward to discuss how it went!
5. use trusted job websites
When it comes to applying to jobs, stick with websites you know and trust. Sites such as LinkedIn and Monster are well-known and most likely to be safe. They have a vested interest in vetting the employers on their site and ensuring you and your data stay safe. Well-known recruitment agencies, job boards and company career sites are probably also safe. If you don’t recognize the site or the company, be cautious. If you’re really interested in the job but wary of the website’s legitimacy, copy the job ad into Google. If the job is real, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find and apply to the job on another more reputable site, as most employers post open jobs on a variety of websites.
6. always double check the email address when applying by email
If the job ad requests you send your application to them by email, be wary. Though some employers do occasionally ask for this, it’s not all that common. These days, most job applications happen through a web portal where you can upload your information and resume. If you are asked to email something, check out the email address. Does it have the company name in it? Is it spelled correctly? Does it match their website? Be wary of the small details. For instance, if their company website ends in a .ca domain, if the email contains a .net or the domain is ‘companyname.com’ but the email address has an extra hyphen (‘company-name.com’), it might be a sign of a phishing scam. Also be wary of generic emails from sites like Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo. The vast majority of legitimate businesses will have employees use branded email addresses that contain their company name.
7. use common sense
Here’s a tried and true piece of advice: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If the salary and benefits seem outrageously generous, there’s probably something suspicious going on. Before rushing to apply to a job, always take a moment to analyze the situation and allow your common sense to kick in. Check out the company’s reputation on sites like Glassdoor or Facebook, and visit their social media pages. See what previous employees and customers say about them. Before applying to any job, and definitely before accepting a job offer, make sure you can answer questions like: Is this company a legal and licensed business? What processes are in place to keep my information secure? Do I feel confident all laws and regulations will be respected at this company? Do I feel secure I will be paid by this employer for my work? If you can confidently answer ‘yes’ to all these questions, go ahead and send in your application!