The risks of online job application forms

Advancements in technology have brought many new and wonderful tools and opportunities to job seekers. The Internet alone has opened up many new possibilities, such as the ability to actively search and apply for a job in real time without leaving the comfort of your home. A prime example of this is the online job application form.

There are many advantages to applying for a job online. It’s convenient, easy, fast and it gives you the ability to apply for multiple jobs with multiple companies during one sit-down session at your computer. You can draft and upload multiple versions of a cover letter and upload multiple copies of your resume in electronic format, saving time, paper, ink and stamps.

Unfortunately, as with everything else on the Internet in this day and age, filling out a job application form online also has its risks.

First, every job application requires the input of some personal information. Name, address, zip code and telephone number are only the start. An outline of your employment history, educational background, and exactly where you attended school are also expected.

However, there is one other item many employers require right off the top on an online application form, and one that presents the greatest risk to your security: your social security number.

Although such a request is almost expected of employers these days, it isn’t necessary or appropriate to ask for it during an initial contact or job application. Contrary to popular belief, providing your social security number on a job application it isn’t required by federal law, and is only really needed by an employer for tax reporting and withholding purposes after you are hired.

The fact is, unless you are applying for a type of job that requires an employer to run a security background or credit check, the submission of your social security number so early in the application process is not really needed. On the contrary, placing a request for your social security number on an initial application form, especially an online form, only puts your at safety and security at an unnecessary risk.

Unfortunately, many employers design their online application forms so that the submission of your social security number isn’t an option, it’s a requirement, and the company or organization may not allow you to complete the application or submit the form until your social security number is entered in the allotted field.

In addition, there are many online scammers and fraudulent web sites soliciting non-existent job opportunities to prey on unsuspecting job applicants with phony application forms. These forms have one purpose, to collect the data and use it for nefarious activities, including identity theft. A typical job application includes name, address and social security number, all the information they need to steal your identity, drain your bank account or access other personal assets in your name.

This creates a dilemma for many job seekers concerned about their personal data. Do you provide the social security number and hope your information remains secure or do you decline the offer to apply online and possibly pass up a potential career making opportunity?

When in doubt, don’t do it. If you do it, check the company and the site to be sure it’s worth the risk. It’s a tough decision, and the risks are very real, but it’s the chance you take and ultimately, it’s your choice.