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Resume Trafficking: The job-seeker's nightmare
You already know how I feel about using a resume to
"market" yourself. I just don't like resumes. But people use them, so it's important to discuss the risks they pose.
Pam Dixon is the principal investigator on a recent study commissioned by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse about online job
search privacy. With Pam's gracious permission, I have excerpted and edited sections of a report she released and parts of a letter
she wrote transmitting
this study to the Federal Trade Commission (which will hopefully launch an investigation).
Your online resume is likely rented, sold and re-sold. Resume trafficking is big
business. Pam has exposed the tip of an iceberg, and
she offers sound advice on how you can avoid running headlong into it during your job search.
Ask The Headhunter®
Resume Trafficking: The job-seeker's nightmare
By Pam Dixon
Job seekers by the tens of millions entrust their resumes to resume writing services, resume databases, and even recruiting services
only to have their resumes searched, data-mined, bundled, and sold in bulk for 10 to 33 cents apiece to employers, bogus recruiters,
and start-up job sites seeking to make a fast buck from selling access to job seeker data. And job seekers, much to their dismay,
all too frequently find their resumes circulating amongst employers and recruiters years after they initially
In 2002, Monster.com revealed in an earnings call that 30 percent of the Monster unit's profit came from its resume database.
This is a publicly traded company with a market capitalization that hovers around one billion dollars. Monster.com is not alone in
selling access to consumer resume databases to boost the bottom line, nor is it alone in relying upon millions of consumer resumes
to do so.
Consumer resumes have become a big business, and this business is not necessarily helpful to job seekers. Privacy concerns are
often the last consideration on the list when companies try to profit from compiling and using consumer resumes as profit-making
commodities. The entire job search industry is in dire need of regulation and reform. The industry has not set its own standards,
and few within it are willing to do the right things for this special and large group of consumers who need the most help: people
who are looking for work.
Job seeker beware
Even the most careful, conscientious sites cannot control your resume after an employer or a recruiter has downloaded it. Job sites
do not have the ability to track or physically control how a recruiter or employer uses your resume after it is downloaded. Most
let the job seeker beware.
The more general the email “job” offer, the less valid it usually is. Vague wording like “We have thousands of jobs”
or “We work with major companies” is a red flag. Requests to send in a new copy of your resume can spell trouble, too. Avoid
vaguely worded offers, and avoid sending your resume to general email resume solicitations after you have posted your resume online.
Resume posting options
Job seekers have several options to choose from in circulating a resume.
- Reply to job ads directly without going through a third party. Look for a company-related email address to send
your resume to.
- Post a resume directly on the Web site of the company you wish to work for.
- Work with one carefully selected “headhunter” or recruiter.
- Some resume databases let you mask your contact information or email address when you post a resume. This
allows you to control who contacts you or not. If you are going to post a resume online, this should be the only way you post it.
Recommendations to job seekers
Pay particular attention to how long a site says it will keep or store your resume. Preferably, job and resume sites
should state that they promise to keep your resume for a limited, specific amount of time, such as one to six months, after which
the site will delete your resume. Without specific, written statements about how long your resume may be kept, your resume can be
archived for years, legally.
Before you post a resume, check to make sure you can delete your resume after you have posted it. Look in the job site’s
and ask how or if you can delete your resume. If you are not satisfied with the reply, do not post your resume.
If you use a resume writing service, get an agreement in writing that the service
online resume writing services.
Know how to handle unsolicited email about your resume posting. If you post a resume to a resume database and receive
unsolicited email other than from legitimate employers or recruiters, be sure to notify the site where you have your resume posted
and tell them you have received the email. The more vague the email, the less legitimate it is likely to be.
Keep good records. Be sure to keep a record of where you have posted your resume. Remember to go back and delete your
resume from the sites where you have posted it after you have finished your job search.
Post your resume sparingly. It is tempting to go to every job site you can find and post your resume. Focus on quality,
not quantity. Hand-pick just a few sites that have good privacy policies and that other people working in your profession have had good luck
with, and post only to sites that allow you to mask your contact information.
Use a disposable email address. If you post your resume to a site that does not allow you to mask your identity,
then mask it yourself. Use an email address that you can cancel if you start getting spam, and don’t give out your full name,
phone number, or home address.
Never put a Social Security Number on your resume. You can provide it when you are invited for an interview or when the
employer obtains your permission to conduct a background check. Widespread access to your SSN puts you at risk for identity theft.
Omit references. When you post a resume online with your references’ names and phone numbers on it, you
are giving their information away without their consent in what can be a very public forum.
Your resume belongs to you. According to current copyright law, you own your resume and the copyright on it. If you
don’t like how your resume is being handled, you have the right to complain and take action.
Help for job seekers
If you believe your resume or personal job search data, including your email address or your name, has been shared or used in a way
You may file a consumer complaint with the FTC by calling (1-877-FTC-HELP) or by using the FTC’s online filing system, located
at http://www.ftc.gov/. Click on “File a Complaint Online.”
If you have identity theft problems resulting from your resume posting, visit the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse www.privacyrights.org
and the Identity Theft Resource Center www.idtheftcenter.org.
Copyright © 2003 by The Dixon Report and Pam Dixon.
I encourage you to read the entire text of Pam's Online
Job Search Privacy Study, which is funded by the Rose Foundation Consumer Privacy Rights Fund, and her letter
to the FTC. Pam is also the author of the
Privacy Foundation's 2001 report on the privacy practices of Monster.com,
and several books including Job Searching
Online for Dummies. Many thanks to Pam for sharing her work with us.