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I would like some insight into using an anonymized information - like a different family name, birthday, location and phone number, and throw-away email address - to make initial contact with a company that outsources some of their HR functions. The companies are usually easily identifiable because either (1) the company's job listings are hosted by a 3rd party; or (2) "Apply Now" goes off-site to a 3rd party.

There are several reasons a person may wish to withhold information from 3rd parties like Monster, Dice, or many of the other "HR as a service" providers. First, some folks are not allowed to engage in a job search during employment (see Should I agree to accept any further addition of rules to the company policy?).

Second, some people are concerned about their privacy and don't want to share information with anyone who holds "the person is the product" and commoditizes their information. I have been part of three data breaches and I don't want more information about me circulating for others to use.

Third, many of the companies that provide candidate services to HR departments have been found to be Consumer Reporting Agencies under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (see Halvorson v. TalentBin, Inc.; Case No. 3:15-cv-05166-JCS). They operate with little to no oversight; and are effectively unaccountable for their mistakes. Trying to monitor and identify every data broker with incorrect information is not reasonable for the typical individual.

Fourth, candidates with cultural names often experience discrimination. According to Jalen Ross, "Every day, a black name resume is 50 percent less likely to get responded to than a white name resume" (see Do job-seekers with 'white' names get more callbacks than 'black' names?).

The best solution to the first three concerns is to avoid sharing the information in the first place. If the information is not shared then it can't be lost, stolen or misused. The fourth case only needs to redact the name.

I have tried writing to companies using published and well-known email addresses like hr@example.com trying to open a dialogue with and asking for (1) alternate methods to submit information, or (2) declining to share information with partners. My empirical data suggests it is successful about 1 in 11 or 1 in 12 times. Most of th time there is no reply, and most of the remaining times the answer is "no". That's not very good so I am trying to improve the success rate while being mindful of my privacy.

Questions: assuming I use an alias name, a similar birthday and similar location with accurate employment information and experience, then

  1. how do I explain using aliases without giving the appearance of misconduct or impropriety?
  2. what reaction(s) should I expect from the company and HR personnel?
  3. are there better strategies to make contact while protecting candidate privacy?

I realize I will have to provide accurate name, birthday, ssn, location and phone number eventually. Once the dialogue is open we can work together instead of blindly dumping everything into a 3rd party who then claims they own the information.

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    @Mawg - The United States of Corporate America :) I envy European folks who have a right to privacy and a right to be forgotten. – jww Oct 9 '18 at 6:51
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    Since a few months ago :-/ But the "five eyes" don't leave much privacy for those in the UK – Mawg Oct 9 '18 at 7:25
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    @jww perhaps if you explained why relatively available data - your name, uni and work history - would cause problems? I'm unclear why you're trying to protect this information. – bharal Oct 9 '18 at 10:26
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    @jww i don't understand why you don't like the view "the person is the product". i mean, you are the product, you take yourself to work every day and use the resources you generate to sustain yourself, the product. unless you have a stash of case and start investing, you're always going to be the product. – bharal Oct 9 '18 at 10:28
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    I understand completely where jww is coming from. I have dealt with many recruiters where it is very clear that they don't care about you at all. You are an object to them, not a person. In fact, this is the vast majority in my experience. I recently upset one because I agreed to explore their offering, but I refused to give my current employer's information. From what I gather, this isn't so much about having something to hide as it is trying to force people to respect your peace and privacy (most third party recruiters definitely don't do this). – iDriveSidewayz Oct 10 '18 at 16:25
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How do I explain using aliases without giving the appearance of misconduct or impropriety? ... What reaction(s) should I expect from the company and HR personnel?

What you're asking is how to lie to a potential employer, tell them that you've lied and have them be okay with it. Don't expect the relationship to continue when they find out; this would be no different than any other lie.

Additionally, if you're bound by a contract that says you agree not to search for a new job, using an alias doesn't change the fact that it's you doing it, nor does it put you any less in breach of the contract. Using that as a justification for what you've done will also tell a potential employer that you don't take your commitments seriously. That won't end well, either.

Should you make it all the way through the process and receive an offer, consider what the says about the caliber of people the company hires.

Are there better strategies to make contact while protecting candidate privacy?

One would be to hire an agent to make first contact companies on your behalf. Your agent will be on the same footing as every other recruiter trying to place a candidate into that company and will have to get past the barrier of convincing the company that there are no strings attached. It will probably also disqualify you from any company that doesn't deal with third parties.

The other would be to dial back your stance and evaluate why employers use these companies, what their policies are with respect to how your information is handled and whether or not you believe they'll safeguard your name. I work for a company that uses a third party application service because they help us with otherwise-expensive regulatory compliance. That service lays out its privacy policies in detail on its web site, which gives you sufficient information to decide whether or not you want to interact with them. Your reaction may be "they say they won't disclose my information but they might," but there's also nothing that prevents an unscrupulous HR drone who received your resume directly from quietly selling the information they collect on the side.

  • Thanks @Blrfl. I'd like to comment but I feel I would sound too argumentative. Thanks again. – jww Oct 9 '18 at 12:13
  • @jww If it's constructive, feel free. I tend not to sugarcoat my answers and don't object to commentary that doesnt, either. – Blrfl Oct 9 '18 at 12:25
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assuming I use an alias name, a similar birthday and similar location with accurate employment information and experience, then

how do I explain using aliases without giving the appearance of misconduct or impropriety?

I don't know any way to lie without the appearance of misconduct. I guess you could avoid the appearance by being really convincing. Of course that only works while you maintain your lies.

what reaction(s) should I expect from the company and HR personnel?

I would expect them to drop all contact with you. Many companies don't want to work with or hire liars.

are there better strategies to make contact while protecting candidate privacy?

Just be honest. Ask questions about the position that interests you before you give them any information that worries you.

Or, only seek jobs through folks in your personal and professional networks. I'm assuming you aren't afraid to talk with them.

You could choose to use a paid job search agent working for you. They can find and qualify job opportunities for you without disclosing your name. Of course, you'd probably have to disclose your actual name and address to the agency. Perhaps you'd be okay with that.

Finally, just refuse to work with any 3rd parties that worry you. Work only with those you trust. Perhaps that includes potential employers - if so, go directly to them.

  • Thanks Joe. Regarding "Of course that only works while you maintain your lies."... I guess the way I expect it to go is, submit resume as John Doe. If the company is interested then they contact through email. Immediately explain the situation and provide the real information. There is no "sustaining a lie". The "convincing" part should be pretty easy. I have folders full of certified letters dating back to the 1990s. I'm also going to get a few police reports for some recent activity. – jww Oct 9 '18 at 11:31
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I have tried writing to companies using published and well-known email addresses like hr@example.com trying to open a dialogue with and asking for (1) alternate methods to submit information, or (2) declining to share information with partners. My empirical data suggests it is successful about 1 in 11 or 1 in 12 times. Most of the time there is no reply, and most of the remaining times the answer is "no". That's not very good so I am trying to improve the success rate while being mindful of my privacy.

Sounds somewhere like the success rate I'd expect, if any companies work with specific hiring methods and partners because that makes life easier for them. Out-of-band applications are annoying to deal with, and what's more show a complete lack of respect for the company's preferred way of working. The upshot being it's not a particularly successful tactic.

Questions: assuming I use an alias name, a similar birthday and similar location with accurate employment information and experience, then

how do I explain using aliases without giving the appearance of misconduct or impropriety?

Well you don't really - applying using a fake name is lying and misrepresenting yourself to the company. That is pretty squarely under the headings of misconduct and impropriety.

what reaction(s) should I expect from the company and HR personnel?

expect your application to be binned and your name placed on a "do not hire" list. If they don't have a "do not hire" list it wouldn't surprise me if they created one just for you.

are there better strategies to make contact while protecting candidate privacy?

yes - use reputable partners only, apply using your real name but keep as much other information general but accurate and truthful as you can. Use a dedicated e-mail address for job hunting, do the same with a mobile (cell) phone. Supply your age but not your D.O.B, your general location (city, region) not your street address, indicate that SSN and other details are available once the process is in progress. This way you will appear careful rather than like a fraudster.

  • Thanks @motosubatsu. You reached a lot of the same conclusions I did after reading about the consequences of anonymized information. It is really unfortunate companies use these services and allow them to molest candidates and employees they way they do. I think I am not going to provide a last name, and use the burner email and phone. I'll figure out some way to leave fields blank when filling the form for the unwanted 3rd party accounts. I work in computer security, and I have all kinds of tricks to make apps do what I want, like passing validation checks. – jww Oct 9 '18 at 14:32
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    @jww Leaving last name off will get you binned just as quickly as a fake one. Unless you happen to be Madonna or Cher but I doubt they are applying for infosec jobs. If I get a CV that just says "Jeff" as the name I'm not even reading past the personal details before I hit delete. – motosubatsu Oct 9 '18 at 14:34

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