Applying for jobs used to involve scouring the want ads in the newspaper and mailing in physical copies of your resume. However, the internet and websites like LinkedIn, SimplyHired, and Indeed make applying for jobs relatively simple. Once your resume is loaded, you can often apply to multiple jobs with the click of a button, which explains why three people are hired through LinkedIn every minute.

Applying online does come with its pitfalls, though. Appearing public on job sites can cause problems at your current job if you are already employed, so you need to be careful about posting on social media or career sites. Or, scammers may see career sites as an opportunity to turn job seekers into victims of identity theft. 

Unfortunately, those worried about the security of their personal information often don’t have a choice; many companies no longer accept paper copies of job applications and resumes. So how do you protect your privacy? Follow these simple steps to help you stay safe online.

1. Limit the Information You Make Public

As much as you can, limit the contact information you make public. For example, never share your birthday, your mother’s maiden name, Social Security Number, or a bank account number until you have already signed an employment contract. If you work in a physical location, fill out the paperwork in person at the office rather than online, although this may be impossible for a remote job.

If you have to include contact information, make sure it’s your personal email and phone number rather than your current work contact information. Also, avoid posting about your job search on social media.

2. Use a Cyber-Safe Resume

When crafting your resume, consider writing one that is cyber-safe. You can find out more about crafting an eye-catching cyber-safe resume at Browse the JobsFuel educational blog series for more resume-building tips. 

Don’t provide your phone number or full home address on your resume (city and state are safe to share), even though it may seem counterintuitive since businesses need that information to contact you. 

Many career sites offer a private communication channel or applications portal through which a potential employer could contact you instead. If you need to include an email address, use an email account you created just for your job search.

3. Be Careful Where You Post Your Resume

Posting a resume online is necessary, but it can put your personal information at risk since it includes your contact information.

  • Only Post on Reputable Sites

Stick to sites you trust. Look at a site’s privacy policy, and make sure they are not sharing your information with anyone other than registered employers. Also, ensure that the web address includes HTTPS instead of just HTTP, and check for the TRUSTe or BBBonline icons to assure you of the website’s validity.

  • Don’t Use a Resume Distribution Service

You want to maintain control of your resume while job hunting, so don’t use a resume distribution service. You’ll have no way of knowing who has your resume, so when someone contacts you, you won’t be able to recognize its validity and may be easily misled into offering information you shouldn’t.

4. When You Do Post Your Resume, Limit Access to It

Recognizing the increased need to protect users’ privacy, many job sites now offer different levels of resume security. 

  • Open Access 

This setting makes your entire resume available to everyone. While this does guarantee your resume shows up in search results from recruiters, it is the least secure. It also is viewable by your current employer.

  • Searchable by Employer-Only Access 

This setting is slightly more secure than open access by limiting your resume to employer-only access. However, you should still only use the cyber-safe version of your resume because anyone can qualify as an employer if they pay a fee.

  • Semi-Private Access

Employers can see everything on your resume, but your contact information is hidden. This provides the most security you can have while still allowing your resume to be viewable in the search results. The job site will notify you if a potential employer is interested, and then you can reach out directly to the business.

  • Private Access

This is the safest level of access, but it keeps you out of any search results.

5. Know the Signs of Scammer Emails

If you post your resume and email address on a job board, you may receive emails from scammers advertising fake jobs. 

If the job offering is too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers like to advertise jobs that pay a lot for minimal work to get you to share your personal data with them, so always make sure you research the company before you apply.

If you notice an email is poorly written, grammatically incorrect, or has a business logo or web address you don’t recognize, chances are it is a scam, and you should avoid applying for it. Likewise, it’s probably a scam if they offer to hire you without an interview or ask you to purchase training upfront.

6. Make Sure the Person You Are Dealing With is Associated With the Company

Many people feel safe interacting with someone who reaches out via a legitimate careers site like Indeed or LinkedIn. Still, sometimes fake job postings do make their way onto legitimate sites.

If someone from the company reaches out to you, make sure they are an employee at that company. Search LinkedIn, social media, and the company’s website if it has a directory. 

If you still aren’t sure, it’s okay to ask them to verify their identity when they ask for private information such as your Social Security Number.

Stay Safe While Searching for Your Next Career Opportunity

Applying for jobs online is about finding the right balance of visibility and security. Using well-known legitimate jobseeker sites can limit your risk of identity fraud and scams when applying for jobs online.

If you believe you have received a fraudulent job posting or that you are the victim of identity theft, report it to the FBI immediately using their Internet Crime Complaint Center.