Data vulnerability of job seekers

As a job seeker, I apply to plenty of jobs online.

Job applications are submitted in mainly two ways:

  1. Upload (cover letter and) resume
  2. Create account, and then upload (cover letter and) resume

The Ontario government has a simple straightforward interface of asking for some personal information and then accepting an upload of a cover letter and resume as one file.

Then, there are the websites where you have to create an account to upload your cover letter and resume. This LinkedIn post very accurately captures the frustrations associated with this system. While I do not quite agree with everything in the post, they are very valid points.

This article accurately captures the overall frustrations associated with searching for a job, including the above-mentioned job application systems. This article focuses solely on frustrations, without commenting on the job application systems. To wrap up the picture, this article talks about how the reality of job applicants is not reflected in the numbers.

But to come back to the main point. Many of the websites where I submitted my job applications, were either operated by ICIMS or Taleo, among others. ICIMS and Taleo are Applicant Tracking Systems (ATSs) – automated tools to help companies parse through thousands of job applications so they can spend less time reading letters and resumes and just hire someone to do the work. Automation gives rise to more automation – just as companies use ATSs to automate hiring, companies are popping up to automate the job application process itself, to help applicants beat the ATS.

The part that I would like to note is that an applicant may end up submitting applications to various different companies, all of which use ICIMS as their ATS. In such an instance, the usefulness of LinkedIn as a single-platform vanishes – it would instead be useful to create a profile on the ATSs like ICIMS, Taleo and others and then just apply for jobs through them!

Others, like Deloitte, have their own ATS, but it is in the US even if you are applying for a non-US based job. As per US law, any data stored anywhere in the US is freely accessible to the US government.

ATSs, as far as I know, do not store their data in Canada – as most are US-based, the data also ends up there. This, raises the issue of data sovereignty – even though I am an applicant in Canada, applying for a job in Canada, my data will end up in the US. Granted, by using Gmail I am already giving up my data to the US, but that is because I want the free email service. How does that argument apply to my job search? As a Canadian applying for a job in Canada, it is reasonable to expect that my job application and related data stays in Canada. Yet, I am forced to give up my data sovereignty just to able to apply for a job, let alone being hired! (Not that it is right for a person to have to give up their data sovereignty to be hired either).

By forcing job applicants to give up control over their own data, the job application process takes advantage of the vulnerable status of the applicants, makes them further vulnerable, and also violates their data sovereignty. The question here is not why does the job applicant continue applying, but why are non-US based companies happily giving up their own data to the US?


The Nobel Prize and accessibility

The Nobel Prize for physics and chemistry were awarded this week.

I came across this excellent article that asks a very pertinent question – if the Nobel Prize is awarded for work done for the betterment of mankind, shouldn’t the knowledge be freely available?

Open access to knowledge and information is an increasingly necessary issue that everyone needs to care about. As the Internet spreads, the barriers to accessing ever increasing amounts of information are coming down. Yet, much of the credible information is unavailable to the public, and individuals sometimes take extreme actions, such as Aaron Swartz.

What are your thoughts on open access to knowledge and information?