Resumes: Privacy and Piracy


How do you protect yourself from identity theft while still including all of the necessary information on your resume?

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 lady 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. She had taken these recommendations to an extreme with her resume and the resulting document was obscure and a little spooky. She had no address, no company names, no college names, no phone number and … no real chance of getting a call 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 identity specialists’ recommendations. For example, as mentioned above, some security experts suggest you don’t list the name of your college where you got your degree. I think that’s going a bit far, as the likelihood of someone stealing your identity based on your college degree info is fairly slim (but not impossible), yet not listing this rather common data on your resume is very limiting to your successful job search.

Protecting Your Resume Privacy

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.)
  • Driver’s 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 don’t disagree, it’s not really an identity theft issue, rather it’s mostly a discrimination or privacy issue:

  • Marital status
  • Names of spouse or children
  • Height / weight
  • Age
  • Hair and eye color
  • Gender
  • Mother’s maiden name
  • Home street address
  • Home phone number
  • Work e-mail

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

Height & 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’s pretty unlikely that it would be on a resume, but I have seen it on a model’s resume and it’s 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’s best if people aren’t calling your home address when you aren’t 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’ve 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.

Privacy Guidelines

While I can’t guarantee that your identity couldn’t 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. You can still take some reasonable cautions when writing your resume for use on the Internet, but don’t go overboard. Remember these guides:

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

If it’s something you’d write in a Christmas card to friends or relatives, it’s probably not worth hiding

Bottom Line: A resume is a personal marketing tool used to solicit interest in contacting you … don’t make it too difficult. If the recruiters can’t get to you easily, they’ll 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 coworker can tell about you), but take care to hide or start restricting the distribution of information that only creditors should know.

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