Getting personal on your resume

Too much information on your resume can lead to trouble. Follow these tips from security experts to stay safe.

Getting personal on your resume

Wondering if you should put personal info in your resume?

You know that your resume is supposed to include the basics: skills, work experience, education. But now it's time to ask yourself  if you should put personal information in your resume. Does your resume include information that puts you at risk for junk mail, spam, scams, or identity theft? Follow these tips from security experts to protect your privacy while allowing the right people to find you.

Determine your risk tolerance

Scott Germaise, author of Privacy Tactics: Protect Your Personal Information Assets and VP of product and project management at identity management and security firm StandardID, advises job seekers to trust their instincts and assess their risk tolerance. "Some people couldn't care less about having a great deal of their personal information publicly available, while others feel that any disclosure beyond the basics is too much," he says.

Jay Foley, executive director of the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center, also cautions job seekers to carefully consider what information they include in resumes. "When you post your resume online, you're sharing it with more than just one employer—you are sharing it with the world," he says.

Find balance between discretion and disclosure

Job hunting requires releasing certain information to potential employers. At the same time, you can be selective when determining if you should put personal information in your resume, as well as what type of info you are willing to share.

"You will have to accept that when you put certain information out into the world, you lose some degree of control over it and how it may be used," Germaise says. "The key is to find the right balance between privacy and desired disclosure.... It's good to be prudent but not paranoid."

According to Foley, posting contact information like phone numbers and street and email addresses doesn't necessarily pose a high risk for identity theft but can make you vulnerable to scams. "Job seekers may be contacted by a representative falsely claiming to be a staff member for a Fortune 500 company," he says. "They say they need to do a background check and take all kinds of information about you—and then get 32 credit cards in your name."

Germaise agrees job seekers can easily be targeted for phone and email scams by posting contact information on resumes. "Such scams are relatively inexpensive, which contributes to their common occurrence," he says.

Information-protection strategies

So how do you protect yourself? Follow these tips:

  • Activate Monster's confidentiality feature: You can hide your name, street and email addresses, phone number and the name of your current or most recent employer. If you upload a Word document or copy-and-paste a plain-text resume, be sure to manually remove identifying information.  
  • Be selective when providing contact information: Foley recommends listing a post office box instead of your street address. Alternatively, you can include just your city and state, revealing your full address on request.

    Be careful with email addresses, too. "Use a disposable email address for your job search," advises Germaise. To protect phone numbers, consider getting an unlisted number, or use a voice-mail service. Many services offer a free phone number and deliver messages via email, but you will likely have to pay for a local number.
  • Don't provide too much personal information: "This may seem obvious, but do not post Social Security numbers, references, or any other detailed personal information," says Germaise.

    Foley strongly advises against including a Social Security number or birth date on a resume—both can be used to steal your identity. If you're concerned about your employer discovering your job search, omit your company's name, replacing with a general description.
  • Be Google-ready: The vast amount of information available online can be a virtual playground for scammers—or potential employers checking you out. "Make sure any nonwork-related online profiles of yours do not contain your full name," Germaise suggests. "That is, if your Facebook or other personal websites show a decidedly nonprofessional side of your life, make sure they're not going to come up in a search for your name."

Search smart

Job seekers should ensure job or interview inquiries are valid. "If you are contacted by an employer, conduct research, and find out if the employer and representative are legitimate," advises Foley. "Check out every offer or hint of an offer through the phone and Internet, and check the employer's reputation with the Better Business Bureau."

It can be stressful to figure out if you should put personal information in your resume, but not every aspect of the job search needs to keep you awake at night. Want some help? Join Monster for free todayAs a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. Additionally, you can get job alerts sent directly to your inbox to cut down on time spent looking through ads.