Job Applications and Sensitive Information

When an HR team is seeking the golden candidate for a vacant position that desperately needs to be filled, it is important that the employment application contains all the necessary items. These items will determine if the applicant is initially a good fit for the organization and should progress to next stages of the hiring process. Depending on the job and the organization, there are many key questions to answer and crucial information to collect from the applicant. Learning about the applicant’s skills, education background, ability to travel or relocate, general job schedule availability…those are all key, non-invasive questions that can help Human Resources decide whether to pursue an applicant further.

A Question You May Not Need

One question that is asked occasionally is, “Can a Social Security Number (SSN) be asked on a job application?”  ExactHire does not provide legal counsel, so any questions regarding SSN collection need to be directed to your company’s legal team, but the answer is technically, yes, a SSN can be collected on an employment application; however, it is highly recommended NOT to ask an applicant for this highly sensitive piece of personal information on the applicant’s initial application for multiple reasons…

  • SSNs are typically collected from an applicant in order to conduct a background check, which tends to be when an offer of employment is extended to an applicant.
  • SSNs may also be collected as part of the employee onboarding process, when applicants have formally become new employees.
  • In general, applicants understand that submitting an employment application does not indicate a promise or offer of employment, so there is greater hesitation by the applicants to complete an application for employment that initially asks for SSNs and/or DOBs. This results in a lower application completion rate for a company.
  • Applicants tend to have heightened fears of identity theft and general privacy concerns since they do not know the number of company employees who will be reviewing their submitted application with the SSN and/or DOB information readily accessible.

Assessing Your Needs

According to SHRM, there is no law that prohibits an employer from asking DOB; however, how the employer uses that information must be in accordance with the The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).  In an extremely rare occasion, due to the nature of the position where there is a legal need for it, such as with driver and commercial transportation related job positions, SSNs might need to be collected at the time of application.  (Please consult your company’s legal team to determine your company’s eligibility for this.)  If so, some applicant tracking systems like HireCentric can support multiple applications so that you can have a position-specific employment application for use in special, rare cases where you might need to collect unique information such as SSNs.

If you feel there is a need to collect SSNs on the job application for purposes of background checking , answer this question:  Will you be conducting background checks on every applicant?  If not, it is highly recommended that you not collect the SSN from all applicants, as that puts a heightened responsibility on you and your team to limit access to the large volumes of applicants’ SSNs. Typically, the background check disclosure/consent is completed by the applicant once a job offer is made, so the company can then collect sensitive information (i.e. SSN) for a limited number of applicants. ExactHire offers the opportunity to integrate background checks within HireCentric ATS, so please let us know if you want to explore the benefits of this integration.

HireCentric Security Features

While HireCentric job applications are completed on a secure site, if your company decides to collect SSNs from every applicant, internally as a company, you and your executive leadership team will need to devise a thorough method of ensuring individuals who should not view SSNs do not see SSNs. This will help protect you and your company from potential legal action resulting from any improper use of the applicants’ personal information.

Even if you do not include a question about SSNs, nor plan on ever including a question of the sort, HireCentric offers the ability to make certain Standard Questions viewable to HireCentric Administrators only as a means to ensure sensitive questions have limited viewing access.  In the employment application’s Applicant Statement / Disclosure section, providing a thorough explanation of why SSN and/or DOB is collected in reference to particular legislation is strongly encouraged as a way to help explain to the applicant why this sensitive, personal information is being asked in the initial phase of job application without a pending job offer.

Building a Secure, Legal Hiring Process

In the HR world, legal adherence is a top priority.  You and your company’s legal team can create the internal process to recruit and retain talent that is best for your organization. For your employment needs, ExactHire offers a variety of options to help you and your team implement that internal process you construct and a support team that is ready and willing to help guide you with those solutions in your employment processes. For more information about any of our employment solutions or questions about HireCentric, please contact

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