Why Job Applications Ask for SSN (Social Security Number)

Why do employers want your social security number when applying for a job? Is it safe? What if I don’t want to provide it? What are my alternatives? All of these are great questions. And ones that you most likely have.

Social Security Numbers (or SSN for short) is your personal government-issued identification number. It is the identification number for your true identity.

Those who obtain your Social Security Number can be one step closer to being able to reproduce your identity or file for credit cards under your name. Making your SSN something that shouldn’t be publicly broadcasted.

So why do employers ask for this information during your job application? Let’s jump into that now.

Why Employers Ask for SSN

Employers ask for your SSN because they’ll be performing a background check. Most employers do not perform credit checks as this doesn’t have anything to do with your employment or performance on the job.

But they do care about your background. This consists of:

  • Any outstanding warrants or previous arrests under your name.
  • Any previous criminal records.
  • Verification of your motor vehicle and license record checks.
  • Verification of previous employment.
  • Verification of your education history.

If your employer insists on asking for your credit history, they should inform you of this before they issue the credit check. This is normally practiced by employers because a “soft credit check” may still affect your credit score.

A criminal history may be something that could impede your ability to perform on the job. And it is important for employers to know in advance as it could impede your schedule and ability to drive results.

Risks of Publicizing Your SSN

Here’s a harsh reality, your SSN is most likely already out there. It is impossible in today's paperless world to not be publicizing vast amounts of personal information. The U.S. Postal Service is a key player in selling your personal information (fun fact, right?).

While that isn’t going to make you feel any more secure. The reality is that you aren’t increasing your risks of identity theft by submitting your SSN to your employer.

That said, should you do it? No, not if you don’t absolutely have to. Avoid sending your SSN through postal mail and if you feel it’s absolutely necessary, avoid sending your SSN through a job application or career portals as well.

Why is SSN Asked on the Job Application?

When an employer asks for your SSN during your job application process, it is unique. They shouldn’t. This is because there is no reason to perform a background check until they are going to move forward with your employment. That means after you’ve interviewed and when you’ve received a letter of employment (an offer letter stating your job title and offered salary).

If your employer is asking for this information on your job application, you absolutely have the power to dismiss this information.

How to Avoid Placing SSN on the Job Application

If your employer is asking for this information and insists that it is a requirement, simply fill in the form with “000-00-0000” and this will inform your employer that they must ask you by phone or in-person for your Social Security Number.

This may not avoid the fact that your employer still wants to perform a background check. If you have a criminal history and you’re aiming to avoid your employer from knowing that, this is not the method for doing so.

All companies have strict policies on what’s required to be able to be employed. Including a drug test. This means all employees, regardless of their job title, are going to be required to provide this information.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.

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