Recently, I wrote a blog about employers asking for Social Security numbers on employment applications. Well, I just heard about a couple more and I just can’t help but call them on the carpet: Jim Beam Global Spirits and Wine and Home Depot. I went on-line and actually experienced it for myself. Beam Global Spirits won’t let you complete the on-line application unless you provide it and Home Depot has it as part of their “account” sign-up process on their careers website.
I have been in business and HR for a long time and I can’t think of one reason why I would need a candidate’s social security number to complete an application.
Does this strike a chord with any of my HR colleagues? Do any business executives have any other perspective to share?
Other than sharing the embarrassment for their mishap, there are a few key messages that are important for employers:
1. Test your own application process (and forms) as a candidate. Would you put your social security number in the box?
2. Minimize real and perceived discrimination. Don’t put your company at risk by asking for unnecessary personal information from candidates. Candidates can accuse you of using this information inappropriately during the evaluation and selection process. Defending that can be time consuming and expensive.
3. When you need that information, ask the candidate for it and clearly explain why you need it and how it will be used. This minimizes any assumptions and accusations.
4. How would you like it? It doesn’t take any special degree, certification or specific experience to know when something is just not right. If you put yourself in the candidate’s or employee’s shoes, most often you will see what is right and what is wrong. It is worth taking a step out from behind the executive desk!
I would welcome a response from the Chief HR Officers at Beam (Mindy Mackenzie) and Home Depot (Tim Crow) to understand what possible reason they have for asking candidates for this information during the application process. And if they do respond, don’t even think about using the excuse that the information will be used later in the process. They will have to do better than that!