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Susan M. Heathfield

You Want My Social Security Number?

By May 20, 2014

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Readers increasingly ask questions that pertain to the privacy of their personal information both on online job applications and paper job applications filled out and retained by the potential employer. Please share your thoughts in today's poll. You may select as many answers as apply in your organization. You are not restricted to just one response.

Question: "I have applied for a job and the hiring organization wants my social security number on the application. Is this legal?"

Answer: I am not an attorney, so keep that in mind. Asking for the social security number on an application is legal in most states, but it is an extremely bad practice. (Some states prohibit private employers from collecting this information for fear of identity theft.) Depending upon the state in which you reside, laws are different regarding supplying this information, and I cannot keep up with all of them.

I would not provide this information on a job application. Keep in mind, though, that on many job applications, you are signing to provide permission to check references, do background checks, allow criminal record checks, and affirming that everything you have provided on the application is the truth. If you do not supply the social security number on the application, you will likely have to make another trip to the company to fill it in, if the employer wants to offer you a job.

With all of the new laws about guarding employee and applicant information security, no client with whom I work, asks for this information until the person is hired any more. No one wants to be responsible for guarding this information for the year that it would be accessible in a file.

It might cost you the employment opportunity, but I would write "SSN available upon job offer" in that space. They will need the SSN if they do background checks, so you will need to provide it for the background checks if they make an offer. I would prefer to keep that number safe until hired, but it is not always possible.

Especially in online applications, you may need to provide your social security number, but I would avoid offering my social security number if possible. Why are employers asking for social security numbers from every applicant? Seems like such a bad idea.

Image Copyright James Lauritz / Getty Images

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