A reader writes:
After filling out an online application, I received an email from the (large and well-known) employer asking that I return to their career website to provide my date of birth, social security number, and driver's license number. They added that they will only use the information to begin a background check if I were to receive and accept a job offer from them.
Is it weird for a company to ask me for this information and consent (permission to do background check) before even a phone interview or any preliminary step like that? Maybe I am paranoid or maybe it's just that I've never had any organization ask for this immediately upon applying before, but it kinda seems like doing things out of order to me -- like if they wanted to do a credit check on me when I'm one of five final candidates, fine -- but just for applying?
It's not unheard of -- I've occasionally had other readers tell me it's happened to them too -- but I think it's rude and in poor form to ask for it at this stage, and also unnecessary.
It illustrates yet again the frustrating power dynamics that job seekers face in an economy like this. Because really, why should you subject yourself to unnecessary and invasive practices like this? But when you are out of work and looking for a job, need often trumps principle, and understandably so. We should all care, though, that some companies ask people to choose between being considered for a job or standing up for privacy and common sense.
I do think you could simply say you don't provide information like that at this stage, because of concerns about identity theft and the practically universal advice not to release such information until an employment relationship has been created or is imminent. But you have no way of knowing whether the person who would receive that note from you is (a) logical and reasonable or (b) a bureaucrat who cares about procedure above all else.
Which leaves you back where you started, having to decide whether you're willing to subject yourself to unreasonable and unsettling demands in order to be considered for a job there. All before you're even interviewed.
This kind of thing is terrible for employees, and -- assuming you agree that it's in employers' best interest to treat good people well, because even if they don't have many options in today's economy, they will some day -- it's not good for employers either.