can I apply for jobs anonymously?

A reader writes:

I am writing to inquire about anonymous CVs—whether they can be used with the right impact and shield the privacy. I am a job seeker with no network in a new town, and what’s most stopping me and burning my “energy” during the search is the feeling of exposing myself blindly to people I don’t know.

What if I transform my CV to an anonymous one and send it away to show my skills before exposing who I am?  On the anonymous CV, I would remove my name and the names of my employers/degree universities, and include the departments and the work I’ve done fully to describe my accomplishments.

I would see this as “knocking on the door”—if that would get the attention of the employer to respond to my mail for one, I would then send the full version and take it from there. Is this ever done?

I don’t see why a manager seriously considering a skill set would be any reluctant or uncomfortable to look back and show some sign—especially in a field like mine that takes a lot of expertise. Job searching is an exhausting process. I see this to relieve the tension on the job seeker and is only fair. And I dont see why it wouldn’t pull off with the right cover letter.

I’m not saying it’ll never work, but you’re going to have a much, much lower response rate than you’d otherwise have. First of all, the names of your previous employers and your school matter — there’s a difference between graduating from Yale and graduating from Rogers State University (or wherever), and companies have reputations too. But more importantly, it’s going to come across as odd. Rightly or wrongly, it’s so atypical that most hiring managers are likely to be turned off by it, see you as high maintenance, and not want to consider you further.

The exception to this would be if you’re an absolute super star — but if you are, almost by definition you’re probably working your network and not responding to ads anyway.

It’s not clear to me why you’re hesitant to include your full information. If you were currently employed and didn’t want to risk your current employer learning of your job search, that would be one motivation — but if you simply feel “exposed,” I think you need to just get past that, unfortunately.

Does anyone who hires want to argue that they wouldn’t be turned off by this?

{ 39 comments… read them below }

  1. Lina*

    I agree with you AAM. I don’t understand the reasoning behind this. I guess you could use your first and middle initials and full last name if you don’t want to be completely identified. Maybe, include an email address but no home address?

    But hiding the names of your college and employers is really odd.

    What would you tell an acquiescence or someone you met at a party?
    That is my reasoning when I write in my blog or Linkedin page.

  2. Anon*

    No arguments here. This feeling of the OP “exposing” him/herself “blindly” sounds like a personal issue that really needs to be resolved.

  3. Lisa*

    This is a guess, but I’m wondering from the way the letter is written if the OP is a non-native English speaker and thinks that a foreign background (universities, perhaps name) is putting employers off.

      1. Ashley*

        Laura, dont know what you referring to by my “original letter” and how you got to see it, but my original letter had more flaws than “odd”. I guess what they say about the linguistic skills are true. It gets rusty when you dont use a second language for a lenghty while. Try to see it from that angle if it is available to you.

    1. Ashley*

      My anonymous CV says that 2 of my degrees are from a leading university in the country of my origin and the others, including my ph.d. are from one of the top 3 in the province i’m job hunting. Similar lines go for my workplaces. Anonymity has room for misleading—if you take that route and think you can get away with it when it opens you the door the way you intended it to.

  4. Ellie*

    I agree that this seems like it would be a major turn-off to anyone who is hiring, and would be quite inadvisable. However I think that this is part of the same problem that you have received several letters about already – the fact that it is incredibly frustrating, and can feel belittling, to send personal information and carefully written cover letters to these anonymous Craigslist ads that don’t even say the name of the company, have a generic and brief job description, often won’t even get back to you, and that might be a fake listing anyway. So I can easily understand the impulse to show companies the same “disrespect,” or at least the same lack of engagement that they demonstrate to their potential applicants. In short while I can see why this wouldn’t work I can also understand the impulse to do it – I think that an unwillingness to send personal details to an anonymous Craigslist post is probably what the OP means by “exposed” rather than that it’s some kind of complex hangup.

    1. Laura*

      If you don’t like the Craigslist ads that are anonymous (and possibly scams), then don’t apply to them. That’s what I did when I was job hunting!

        1. Anon*

          If he’s in such financial straits that he needs a job just to eat, then he’s not going to do something odd like this that might reduce his chances of getting a job. From this alone, I think he’s in a good enough position to be “picky” and not apply to jobs on Craigslist that he’s afraid might be fake.

        2. Laura*

          Yes, but what’s the point of applying to a job when you don’t know the company, don’t know where it’s located, and don’t know if it’s even legitimate? It’s more that it’s a waste of time than anything. I really wasn’t trying to be snarky, I just generally don’t think that applying to an anonymous job posting is going to be helpful.

          1. Anonymous*

            I agree, Laura. I was a jobseeker for a year and a half, and I never went on Craigslist. You’re better off checking out temp agency job postings; most of those are also anonymous.

            1. Ellie*

              Okay, forget Craigslist, my point still remains that it is kind of unfair to job seekers when they have to reveal information about themselves in applying and the company can remain totally anonymous throughout. I can see why someone would want to even up the playing field.

              1. Ellie*

                I totally agree that the person shouldn’t do it! The better idea is just don’t apply to anonymous postings if it bothers you. I can sympathize with the impulse though.

  5. Diana*

    I read this as more of a fear of identity theft. I have a co-worker who wouldn’t give out his birthday (to the office members) and his reasoning was identity theft. Maybe an IT reader could chime in about how to protect yourself. I know you should never use that information to create your password or as answers to your security questions (use something that would never go into a resume).

    I personally keep a free e-mail with yahoo and give that address for anything I’m afraid will generate spam. You can always give your main address once they respond.

    This might be too paranoid, but you could get a P.O. Box with the post office. It will still give your city and state without anonymous people being able to mapquest your house, but that might be going too far.

    1. Nichole*

      For all reasonable concerns I like this advice plus Lisa’s idea of using first and middle initial rather than first name. May not solve the problem if he/she has an ethnic name, but really, if a well written cover letter and resume would be ignored because of your name (if it’s not well written, you have bigger problems), I can almost guarantee that getting through the door won’t be the last time it’s an issue. Like it or not, discrimination based on names is a real thing, and I can see why Shaniqua Washington could morph into S. J. Washington. Especially since the OP is new in the area, a P.O. box can help protect his or her security while he/she feels out what companies are reputable and which are shady.

      But you have absolutely no network there? A game of six degrees of separation is a better job search tool than an anonymous CV. Tap into your alumni network, Facebook, LinkedIn, anything that will allow you to search or issue a call for friends of friends who might be willing to meet up with you and give you the insider view of your new town. It involves talking to strangers with references from people you know, but isn’t networking kind of a euphamism for that anyway?

  6. Jamie*

    I would immediately disregard any totally annonymous resume – I might even assume it was sent by a recruiter and it wasn’t a real candidate – just a bait and switch to get me to talk to a new agency.

    I do agree that a street address doesn’t need to be on the resume – to protect privacy – but no name at all? I wouldn’t even bother reading it.

  7. Anonymous*

    It is a turnoff, but it is also when a company posts their job as “confidential.” I don’t normally apply for jobs like this, so we have to be fair and say I wouldn’t consider this applicant.

  8. Joey*

    I’d trash it purely because it would take me an additional, unnessesary step just to get the info I need to decide whether or not to consider you. And I’d wonder if you’ll be one of those pain in the ass employees who whines when your employer needs your personal info. If you’re worried about identity theft, dont list your full name or your physical address. A variation of your name and an email or phone number will suffice.

  9. Anonymous*

    Not such a great idea..
    As for removing your address, I would keep the city on the resume. Some jobs screen out candidates based on proximity.

    I think it would be trashed also, someone might mistake it for an “incomplete” fill in the blanks resume :)

  10. Anonymous*

    I would almost certainly discard the resume, even if the credentials looked amazing. Leaving off the employers and university (and name!) make it look phony, and then there are the logistics. Even if I wanted to contact the applicant, I would call and ask for. . whom? “The person who submitted a resume on September 26?”
    If it is an applicant who studied and worked in another country, that’s a turn-ON for some companies. I’m very interested in applicants who have experience working in different cultures, who can speak more than one language, who are bringing something different to the table. In a sea of Sam Smiths from State University, a Sanja Hrvatin (not a real applicant!) who speaks three languages and studied at Dubrovnik may be just what I need to get some fresh perspective on the team.
    Either way, the point of job posting IS exposing oneself to strangers, in the hopes that they will become colleagues.

  11. Abby*

    I would throw away an anonymous resume and would find it very bizarre and as if the applicant were testing me.

    I would never apply to an anonymous Craigslist ad.

    I know that some employers aren’t ethical and don’t treat applicants well. I feel that I give all applicants a fair shake and treat them well. I would expect an applicant to give me the same courtesy.

    If the author of the letter is international and someone is going to be discriminatory regarding this, an anonymous resume isn’t going to help. The employer would likely be even more prone to ignore the resume once they found out they were tricked.

    And, even when the college doesn’t matter, who is going to review a resume that just says BA 1998 History? Anyone can lie on a resume but I wouldn’t believe it.

  12. Bella*

    One of the biggest reasons not to send a totally anonymous email?
    Most companies use online application portals to collect resumes. They ALL require some personal info – a name, email and phone number at least. Avoiding this would severely limit the number of positions to which you could apply. Sending an anonymous resume to a general contact email will likely result end up in Spam or trashed.

    Using your first and middle initials or leaving off your home/mailing address is fine, but you need to supply some contact/biographical info. Like many have already stated, not doing so either looks suspicious or screams high maintenance – both bad things when job hunting!

  13. Anonymous*

    Honestly, with the quantity of resumes being received now-a-days if someone sent in an anonymous CV I’m sure 99% of the time no action would be taken to pursue the candidate (resumes are flying in without posting job ads, so companies aren’t going to go through unnecessary work to obtain the full version of yours)… unless the person was 100% absolutely amazing and perfect in every way for the company/position. Even then, many would find it odd and wonder why one would submit an anonymous resume unless they were trying to hide something, and/or could possibly believe the anon. resume to be some sort of scam or marketing tactic for a sourcing company, etc. It just seems unnecessary and weird, and slightly paranoid if nothing else.

  14. Mike C.*

    From the National Bureau of Economic Research:

    “Job applicants with white names needed to send about 10 resumes to get one callback; those with African-American names needed to send around 15 resumes to get one callback.”

    (http://www.nber.org/digest/sep03/w9873.html) Read the whole thing if you wish to comment on the study itself, but if I were in the categories that get fewer callbacks I too would want to hide my identity.

    1. Mike C.*

      Sorry, I misread the OP. If we’re talking about removing experience or schooling, I wonder if this person doesn’t want to be found on the web. If that’s the case, either they did something publicly, or share a similar name to someone who did.

  15. Samie*

    I would agree with Lisa. If it’s name or identity theft, add initials and leave out address.

    I often times leave out my address, especially when I’m applying online or when it’s a smaller/non-local company. I’ve never had an issue with it, and I don’t know for sure, but I would say that isn’t too odd.

  16. Stacy*

    I’m sympathetic to this poster because I do my best to avoid giving out information about myself, unfortunetly, it’s just part of the job search these days, (and why people should be so aware of their online presence since such a large number of potential employers admit to Googling candidates). I have my address, phone number, and email address all listed on everything I send to a potential employer and I’m pretty much just hoping nothing bad ever comes of it.

    If I were a hiring manager, I couldn’t imagine putting forth the effort to get to know a candidate who sent in a resume like the one described above. However, I’m curious as to how poeple would feel if the same candidate above wrote a “letter of introduction” of sorts to potential companies? It would give him/her a chance to explain skills and experience without a format that wouldn’t make it obvious that he/she wasn’t including the name of their school, companies, etc. Personally, I’d still find it odd, (almost like getting a Nigerian scam email…), but I wonder about other people’s thoughts. (Of course, I would highly recommend using a name and contact info in the case of a letter.)

      1. Ashley*

        I thank for all the comments and the feedback, and to Alison for posting it up. I tried Stacy’s “letter of introduction” in a slightly different and it worked! I wrote to some of the postings briefly mentioning about my qualifications and asked for detailed info/web-site about the post “if it is still open”. I heard back some of their interest to see my resume, and who they are! even before i could pull myself out of the jetlag and get organized.

        The “introduction” definitely tops it. Although I cant quite place it, I still think the anonymous CV has a place next to totally skipping on a post. It’s a big “turn-off”, but with the right cover letter and setting it could work well.

        There are a lot of appealing postings but I very rarely see an intermediary/company name on it. I wouldnt be surprised if some of them are fake. I’d rather send an anonymous CV than skip those. It is an alternative to “no CV” at all.

  17. Frank*

    I actually like the idea of anonymously applying for work. There IS a serious issue with identification to the extreme point that the moment you start .. say.. making posts online or creating a social networking site page both existing employees or potential ones are exposed to any negative critique from their employer or potential one. However, this doesn’t sit well with employers because they want to know everything about you before “investing” in you. The double-standard increases as we become less concerned about what is done with our personal information these days.

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