Being Safe During Your Job Search
By: Christine Hill
Job searching is inherently vulnerable. You’re reaching out over and over, subjecting yourself to rejection again and again, and trying to ingratiate yourself to total strangers.
It’s all simply a part of the process. However, it’s also the reason that this game can go south really quickly. The fact that you’re putting yourself out there doesn’t mean that you can’t also protect yourself. It’s important, while you’re out there looking for a job, that you know your rights, and guard yourself against abuse, scams, and fraud.
While You Search
An estimated 12% of fraud is employment fraud. Consider the fact that while the internet has made it infinitely easier to post jobs and search for employment, it’s also made it that much easier for scammers to pull the old bait-and-switch. Follow these tips to protect yourself from scams and identity fraud:
Keep personal information personal during the initial phases
- Be aware of the information that you post publicly. Resumes on job searching sites, on social media, or on a personal web page are easy for anyone to see, so avoid getting too specific. Don’t put your exact address, although you might put your city. Don’t put your exact phone number. Blur out the last few numbers.
- Monitor Social Media. More and more jobs nowadays will use social media to get an idea of a prospective employee before hiring. Double-check your public social media sites. Check the security and privacy settings, and make sure that you’re okay sharing information that employers will see.
- Be wary of questions about your identity during the initial application phase. If they’re asking for your social security number, requesting a background check, or asking for a picture of your driver’s license, it could be fraudulent, but it could also be completely legitimate. Double check the person that you’re in contact with.
Don’t Sign Anything until You’ve Met Face-to-Face
It’s easy to communicate remotely, between email and the phone. However, if they’re making a commitment without ever seeing you face-to-face, take care. An in-person impression matters. You want to get a feel for their headquarters (and make sure that they have one).
Research the company, and contact them via the official network as needed. Double-check the numbers and email addresses of those who reach out to you and see whether they match the company. For example, if the company is called “Faucet Specialists, Inc” but you receive an email from Jim@fawcetspecialistsinc.com, you’ll want to take a closer look.
Use Common Sense When Checking for Scams
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. The biggest technique that scammers utilize is promising something for nothing. If the pay is way more than seems proportionate, if you’re required to front money, or if there don’t seem to be any specific job requirements, be suspicious. Also be wary of people who reach out to you, unsolicited. That’s not usually how job searching works, so check their credentials before you respond.
If you see something suspicious, you can check for scams online. Check out scamchecker.net, or the government’s internet fraud page. Even a simple google search of the company, with “scam” tacked to the end, can reveal information about it.
During the Interview
During the interview stage, follow basic safety rules: always let someone know where you are, and bring a cell phone and some cash with you whenever you go somewhere new. Additionally, there are some specific rules about interviews that you should know about:
Know what they can and can’t ask
Some questions are off the table for interviewers, including personal information about your socioeconomic status, your health, and your family plans. It’s not that the questions themselves are illegal. However, if your answers determine whether or not you can be hired, it’s a sign of discrimination, which is illegal.
If one of these taboo questions come up, it might be a mistake. Your interviewer might just be asking whether you’re married in order to break the ice. Consider asking them to clarify, or simply stating that you’re not comfortable answering the question. It’s up to you how you want to handle it. While refusing a question might be perceived as rude, your interviewer might also be impressed that you’re well-informed and that you stand up for yourself.
Expect Professional Behavior
Even before you’re an employee, you’re protected by laws that forbid harassment in the workplace. You don’t need to put up with flirting, comments about your appearance, or suggestive jokes.
After You Land the Job
Continue safe habits by reviewing your rights as a worker. Check out national guidelines, as well as the company’s policy on workplace policies and safety rules. While you’re doing the initial paperwork for a new job, read everything before you sign it, and ask for copies that you can take home, review, and keep on record.