Protecting Yourself in the Job Process

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It's important to take precautions when networking with individuals, including friends of friends and alumni, as well as conducting interviews with employers and alumni.

These are general tips but each situation is unique; the main thing to remember is to trust your instincts and if you feel uncomfortable, either express this or find an excuse to leave. Never feel obligated to reciprocate for the networking help you have received - this is a professional contact, not quid pro quo. It's never appropriate for your networking contact to exact a personal or social obligation from you.

When meeting someone, please remember to:

  • Choose the time and place of your meeting wisely. Insist on a public place like a café or Starbucks at a decent hour during which lots of people will be around. If networking, meeting at the individual's workplace is preferred (unless that workplace is their home).
  • Do not conduct meetings in another individual's home or in a hotel room. In some cases employers do rent hotel space to conduct interviews but if that is the case tell them you are more comfortable meeting in the hotel lobby or conference room. Do not invite strangers into your home or dorm room.
  • Use your own transportation. Never agree to be picked up at your home or on campus. It's never a good idea to get into a stranger's personal vehicle. If meeting in person is challenging, suggest a phone call or Skype.
  • If you need a neutral meeting space, Career Services has interview rooms you can use - simply drop by Parrish 135 to schedule a room for your interview.
  • Tell a friend or family member where you're going, who you're meeting with and when. Plan to call or text them following the meeting to let them know how it went.
  • Consider having a friend accompany you if possible.
  • Take your fully-charged cell phone with you with easily accessible emergency numbers.
  • If your networking contact attempts to make physical contact with you, simply shake their hand. Although they may be friendly, they should keep their contact professional, which does not involve more than a handshake. 
  • Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable for any reason, make an excuse to leave immediately.

    Sharing personal information:

    We strongly encourage you to be cautious when sharing personal information that could reveal your identity. Use your general college mailing address on your resume and do not provide anyone with your actual dorm location.

    Research the person you're meeting with, even if it is a Swarthmore alumnus/a. Try to verify that the person is who he/she claims to be. Remember that his/her LinkedIn profile is self-generated and may not be entirely accurate. Google him/her prior to your meeting and be alert for anything that looks unusual - does their organization seem legitimate? Do they have a website? Is there any public information available about the quality of the opportunities they are providing? Connecting with a person on LinkedIn can be a professional way to stay in touch with a networking contact.

    If you have questions about safety in your job search or want to talk with a counselor about networking professionally, please contact Career Services at career@swarthmore.edu or drop by Parrish 135.  

    Fraudulent Job Postings

    Unfortunately, not every job posting is an opportunity. Scammers know that job offers are a powerful tool for harvesting personal information, so you need to know how to distinguish legitimate job postings from scam attempts. (Start by taking a look at this MSNBC story about a typical scam.)

    Basic Tips

    • When in doubt, get the job opening directly from the company's official website. Much like phishing email, scam job postings often capitalize on well-known companies' names and images. Type the company's name into Google (don't follow links from the suspicious posting, which could take you to a cosmetically similar page) and checking the employment page to be sure the opening is real. Calling the company in question (again, using publicly available contact information) is another good strategy.
    • Don't provide financial information or your Social Security number! Legitimate employers won't ask for your bank account details or your SSN, and this information can be put to nefarious purposes.
    • If you're posting your resume online where it can be accessed by anyone, leave out personal information like specific details about past employers and your date of birth. 
    • If a job sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is.

    Red Flags

    • The same warning signs that signal fraudulent emails and websites -- bad grammar and spelling, requests for personal information, and difficulty contacting or identifying the poster -- are all clear signs of trouble.
    • You are contacted by phone, and the number is not available
    • Vague descriptions that focus on money rather than the job
    • Email domain (that's the @xyzcorp.com part of the address) that doesn't match the company's official website's domain
    • Email domain of a free provider is used (real companies almost always have their own email systems): live.com, yahoo.com, hotmail.com, etc.
    • Website that has information only on the job you're applying for, rather than about the company in general
    • Request for an initial investment 
    • Request for bank account access

    What if I'm already involved in a scam?

    • Immediately contact the local police.
    • Get in touch with your bank or credit card company and dispute any fradulent activity immediately. 
    • If the scam happened online, file a report with the FTC's cybercrime division

    More resources