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There's this really aggressive recruiter trying to get me for a job that sounds pretty good, is local, pays about right... and has sent me two voicemails and an email in the last 24 hours. Okay, whatever, he's trying to do his job. So, I go to fill in the stuff he wants, and...

... they're asking for my SSN right on their 'initial applicants' form. I don't care if it's a 'secure' form, it's still a required field to fill out, and it's setting off all my red flags.

I'm half tempted to approach the hiring company myself -- the guy already told me who it is, anyway -- just to make a point about how disturbed I am by this, but I'm secretly wondering if the job even exists right now. This is the first recruiter I've come across that wants this information AT ALL -- not even before first response, not on the phone, not in an in-person interview!

Is this legit, or should I let my instincts lead me as far away from this guy as possible?

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Legal immigrants have SSNs too, by the way. –  Monica Cellio Jan 23 '13 at 15:36
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I would contract the recruiter and explain you will only provide your SSN directly to their client and only after your there for an actual interview. If they cannot accept that then then they can find somebody else for the postion. This is the point where i would contact their client apply for the job directly, and if given the chance, explain you had to contact them directly to avoid giving out PII to their recruting firm. –  Ramhound Jan 24 '13 at 17:07
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"really aggressive recruiter" put me off them immediately. I'd follow Ramhound's comment tbh. –  BunjiquoBianco Jan 25 '13 at 14:41
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You're being scammed. Do not fall for it. I had someone call me up from Fort Worth telling me they had job postings for some of the national banks in the area where I lived. I knew who all those actors were and I knew they had postings, so I had no need to go through someone on the other end of the state. They said they couldn't process my submission until they had the last four digits of my SSN. Recruiters don't ask for that until a 'yes' hiring decision is made. –  Meredith Poor Dec 20 '13 at 19:44

6 Answers 6

up vote 37 down vote accepted

According to the Social Security Administration's Legal requirements to provide your Social Security number, the following situations require it:

Internal Revenue Service for tax returns and federal loans; Employers for wage and tax reporting purposes; Employers enrolled in E-Verify; States for the school lunch program; Banks for monetary transactions; Veterans Administration as a hospital admission number; Department of Labor for workers’ compensation; Department of Education for Student Loans; States to administer any tax, general public assistance, motor vehicle or drivers license law within its jurisdiction; States for child support enforcement; States for commercial drivers’ licenses; States for Food Stamps; States for Medicaid; States for Unemployment Compensation; States for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families; or U.S. Treasury for U.S. Savings Bonds

None of those situations are "to apply for a position", which is the situation you are in. You may refuse to give it, and I personally would until I was actually signing a contract/offer letter/payroll papers for a specific company.

You might ask why your Social Security number is needed, how your number will be used, and what law they think requires you to give your number, if they push you on it, and determine you final answer from there.

As to your specific questions, I don't know how common it is -- I've not seen a request for a social security number in this context in a long, long time, but that is just me. It's quite possible that you are working with a dumb recruiter who thinks he or she needs/is entitled to this information; similarly, you could be working with a scammer.

As for your response being warranted, it's perfectly reasonable to ask to confirm if the position exists and if Recruiter X is handling it, and that's the extent to which I would discuss it with them.

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I would no more give my SSN to a recruiter than I would give it to a used car salesman. I wouldn't give it to a potential employer until I had at least an initial interview. –  Jim In Texas Jan 23 '13 at 16:48
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There are even fewer cases where you're required by law to give someone your phone number or e-mail address. I don't think the issue is whether the OP is required to give his SSN, but whether it's a good idea to do so. IMHO, the answer is a resounding no. Leave that space on the form blank. If it's a web form that you can't submit without filling it in, talk to the recruiter and/or see if the form will accept 000-00-0000 or some other obviously fake number (I wouldn't use something random and real-looking). –  Keith Thompson Jan 23 '13 at 18:04
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@KeithThompson - It's one thing to give an SSN directly to an employer who has a legitimate need for it. For example government related jobs that have security requirements. Recruiters are just salesmen. There is NO reason that a recruiter might need a candidate's SSN. –  Jim In Texas Jan 23 '13 at 20:10
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@Shauna - The SSN should only be requested in conjunction with a job offer, or after a serious round of interviews in the case of security sensitive positions. Asking for SSN on an initial contact is highly inappropriate! –  Jim In Texas Jan 25 '13 at 19:43
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SSN should only be asked for during the hiring process after you have accepted a job offer and never before that. –  HLGEM Dec 20 '13 at 22:22

I was approached by a recruiter for a great job with 3M (a local company here in Minnesota). I gave all of my info except my SSN. The recruiter assured me that 3M would not consider any applicant without an SSN. I refused to provide it. I explained to the recruiter that requiring an SSN makes them look shady.

There is no legitimate reason to require an SSN before an interview. It is not acceptable to expect people to give up their SSN to anyone who asks for it, especially solely over the phone.

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So is there a moral to this story? –  Rachel Keslensky Jan 23 '13 at 18:17
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I answered the question: "There is no legitimate reason to require an SSN before an interview. It is not acceptable to expect people to give up their SSN to anyone who asks for it, especially solely over the phone." –  Evik James Jan 23 '13 at 18:18
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Hi Evik, we liked that answers here explain the "why" - our FAQ has a good explanation as to the types of answers we look to see here. –  enderland Jan 23 '13 at 18:53
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Did you get invited in for an interview? –  Carson63000 Jan 23 '13 at 22:14

This MAY be legit, but I don't think so.

Recruiters will need to know your SSN if you are working through them as an agency and being contracted to the employer. Also, some bad HR people think they need to get SSN's from applicants.

I had responded to an ad, once, with no company name on it, and someone from Seagate sent me a form demanding it and a release to perform a credit check. I responded that it would be premature at this stage without even having an interview. She sent back a rather scathing email about how I need to comply with their policies, and she would now "take me off the list." I looked her up on LinkedIn, and she really did work for Seagate, so take that for what you will.

BTW - I don't by Seagate hard drives, any more. <grin>

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Here is how I handle it:

Online forms

I leave the field blank. If I cannot, then I enter 000-00-0000.

Paper forms

I leave the field blank.


So what happens when someone asks me for it? It is very rare for that to happen. When it has, I've said something like, "oh, I'm very happy to provide it once I accept the offer."

If they were to press the issue (only happened once, because it was "company policy"), then I've said, "Oh, I understand. I was a victim of identity theft (true) and as a policy, I have to be very careful about giving out that information. I'd be happy to provide it once I accept the offer." In my case, the person backed down.

If they hadn't, then I would've ended the process at that point and moved on to my next candidate company.

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Recruiters don't need the full social security number until maybe the contract write-up. Some recruiters do need the last 4 digits of your SSN because it might be required by their client so the client company can do a background check on you. This happens often in the web development world when you are looking at a job with a bank or other financial institution.

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Some recruiters may want a SSN to help ensure that you really are legally authorized to work in the US, but they should still be able to do that without your SSN... in its entirety or in part.

Some suggestions I've heard were to give a fake SSN, or fake the last 4 digits if that's all they want, and if you do get hired, correct yourself. Whether or not you decide to go with this, or to be upfront and say you'll provide it upon receiving a written offer, I'd err on the side of caution and NOT give your real one till then.

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