Monster Cock-Up Highlights Crucial CV Identity Mistakes

Online CVs can provide thieves with just about everything they need to steal your identity. So, how can you make sure that you give enough information to a potential employer and still keep your personal information safe? Recruitment consultant and CV doctor, Paul Jenkins gives you some pointers.

By Paul Jenkins

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The wailing and hand-wringing that followed the news of a massive security disaster at Monster, the world?s largest online job site, has shown that most people completely misunderstand what has happened there.

The job board?s security systems may have been breached, but the fact that vital identity information on many millions of us is now likely to be misused is mostly our fault, not Monster?s.

If people took the right advice about what personal details to include in their CVs, none of this would matter half so much.
People pile far too much personal data into their CVs. The average career r?sum? contains enough detail for an identity thief to fill in a few credit applications and be sunning himself in the Bahamas at his victim?s expense before anyone spots there is even a problem.

At least half the personal data that is routinely packed into a CV just does not need to be there.

For example, why is the full postal address needed? At the short listing stage, the postal town or the first 3 or 4 characters of the postcode should be enough to show roughly where the applicant lives. The candidate can provide the full address later, in time for the job offer letter.

Since age discrimination legislation has made it illegal for recruitment decisions to be based on age, adding your date of birth has long been superfluous. But if you are determined to reveal this information, you can always give the month and year of birth, or even your age in years. The exact date, to the day, will not be of any interest to the employer. The only person who will find it genuinely interesting will be an ID thief, for whom a DOB is a golden asset.

The phone number you give can also be significant. You want to be reached easily, if an employer has something to say to you, which is an argument for giving a mobile number. On the other hand, a permanent landline number helps tie you down and locate you (hence the old ?No phone, no loan? rule used by American finance companies). But without the ability to quote a home telephone number, the identity thief is just one more key piece of information away from knowing too much about you. The best advice these days is to stick to the mobile.

The very worst security mistake that occurs on CVs is the inclusion of the applicant?s National Insurance number. It doesn?t happen much, but it?s not unknown, and it truly is an invitation to disaster.

But the most worrying point about CV information security is that you don?t need to crack Monster?s systems or be a master cybercriminal to lay your hands on all this valuable information. Just about anyone with a telephone can set up as a recruitment agency. Within days, the job boards will be falling over themselves to hand over the entire contents of their CV databases in return for a small subscription.

Before long your CV is in the hands of the ?job-spammers?, otherwise known as ?spray and pray? recruiters. These are job agencies whose business model involves firing off vast numbers of CVs to vast numbers of employers in the hope that one in a hundred, or even one in a thousand, will happen to hit home and lead to a fee. Most recruiters will have the decency to delete your contact details from any CV they distribute, but you cannot always bank on it. Down at the more cynical end of the market, any deletions are more likely to be concerned with making sure an employer cannot cut the recruiter out by contacting you directly than protecting the wellbeing of your identity.

In the light of the Monster disaster, today?s advice is clear. If your CV is out there in cyberspace, bring it back down to earth, make a few simple deletions and alterations and start your job search again from scratch. Less is more, and the less detailed personal data you include in your CV, the more likely you are to emerge from your job hunt with your identity intact.


With 20 year as a recruitment consultant, Paul Jenkins has seen it all - and he knows that most of it sucks. It?s a cruel game, and one that wastes the potential of too many good people. But Paul?s on a mission to do something about it.


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