Qraig’s Quest – Information (Mis)Management

by Qraig De Groot
previously published 12/5/12

Information (Mis)Management

qraigsquestPlease bear with me for a moment. I’m writing this column mere moments after applying for a job online.  As has become the norm, I had to fill out a lengthy application with all the information that is already clearly highlighted on my résumé.  But before I could submit anything, it was mandatory that I register for the site.  Create a username and password just so I could apply to one job that struck my fancy.  Why?  Do they think I will be applying to an array of jobs with their organization?

Being the good little job seeker, I filled out the form, checked the appropriate boxes, answered the mandatory questions, attached a copy of my résumé and cover letter, participated in the EEO “voluntary” self-identification form, created my username and finally hit “Submit.”  But instead of receiving the obligatory “Thank you for applying…” message, I was taken to another page which basically tried to bully me into doling out more facts about myself before the job application was fully submitted.  And this wasn’t just any information – it was personal data including my birthday, driver’s license and social security number!

Since the dawn of the internet, haven’t we been warned not to share such information online?  There’s such a high risk of identity theft that anyone typing personal information into their computer is just asking for trouble.  Yet, in late 2012 there are still a number of companies out there (this isn’t the first time I ran into this scenario) demanding information that, if it fell into the wrong hands would cause a person tons of financial and emotional damage.

Is a job that you probably won’t even get to interview for anyway really worth it?  I don’t think so.  If an online application asks for such information, I either navigate away and forget about the position or just input bogus data in the various fields.  I don’t care how enticing the job seems or how perfect it might be.  If they want me to risk identity theft just to apply, they have another thing coming.

Why am I so cautious?  Well, my personal financial information was compromised a few years ago.  Someone charged hundreds of dollars to one of my credit cards at an electronics store somewhere in western New York and then $700 more at a pharmacy. It was when they tried to buy over $500 worth of “drug paraphernalia” online that the credit card company got suspicious and contacted me.  But while I was on the phone, this criminal somehow got into one of my frequent flyer accounts and proceeded to buy an airline ticket and $1,000 worth of airline miles with another credit card of mine!

I spent an entire month trying to sort everything out.  Luckily, the person who stole my personal information was dumb enough to make it clear I wasn’t the one buying hundreds of dollars of electronics, drug paraphernalia and medication then trying to book a flight from Las Vegas to Orange County, California in less than an hour.  Things were straightened out in record time and my credit card accounts were adjusted and new cards were issued.  And I immediately went online to make sure all my passwords were changed and no personal information was easily accessible.

How did this thief gain access to my personal information?  I never found out, but you can imagine how wary the experience made me.  Though it was all sorted out in the end, a bad taste was left in my mouth and I’ve become wary about what information I share and who I share it with – both online and off.

And, as I pointed out my earlier example this experience has increased the roadblocks in my job search.  But, I’m okay with that.  I just don’t see the need of anyone knowing my social security number unless they are about to hire me.

This attitude has certainly led to me not being considered for jobs – especially at temporary and job placement agencies.  Many of them require you fill out all kinds of tax forms and supply copies of your social security card and driver’s license before you even interview with one of their own recruiters.  Without this information, the recruiters claim they can’t start placing you in jobs.

When I have inquired as to why they can’t, no one has ever had a clear cut answer.  Some said it was needed for when I started being paid.  “Well, when we get to that point,” I retorted, “you can have that information.”  Other claimed it was just a mandatory step in their application process.  “Thank you for your time,” I replied, “but I won’t give you that information until you place me in a position.”  And with that, I was most likely crossed off their list.

There are a lot of things I will compromise in my search to secure that great job I’d be perfect for.  I will give up hours of time going through rounds of interviews.  I will sacrifice money by transporting back and forth from businesses all over the area.  I will even surrender a bit of dignity by performing tasks and temp jobs that might be deemed a bit below my skills and experience, just to get that position I ultimately deserve.

But, I WILL NOT compromise my own personal identity.  Even if it’s while filling out an application for what appears to be the best job in the world!  If a company won’t consider me without knowing my birthday and social security number, then I really don’t want to be associated with them – no matter how great they might seem.

And you can take that to the bank – but you’re not withdrawing money from my bank account for your electronics and plane tickets!  Not if I can help it.


Qraig earned his MLIS from Rutgers University with a concentration in Digital Libraries. He is currently looking for a job. Ideally, he’d love to be the first billionaire librarian, but at this point he’d settle for anything where his skills and education can be utilized. Paid vacation time and health benefits wouldn’t hurt either.

Still a Jersey boy at heart (and will always be), Qraig currently resides in Manhattan where he spends much of his time watching ridiculously trite reality television, reading astonishingly atrocious autobiographies, writing preposterous prose and cleaning up after his two black cats. It’s truly a life of which dreams are made. He may be contacted at qdegroot at rutgers.edu.