Re: Previous employer contacts

Subject: Re: Previous employer contacts
From: "Ned Bedinger" <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 26 Aug 2004 15:50:11 -0700

> > Second question: I see online applications asking for one's SS#. Do
> > employers really believe this is an acceptable risk for applicants to
> > their SS# into an online form? Do any of you do that?

I talked to an agency in Virginia a couple of years ago that required the
SSN--they said the employer required a credit check before any further
processing of applicants. The agency rep explained to me that for this
employer (a credit card company), any credit issues (late payment,
collection, ...) would be a show-stopper. I don't have to tell you that
this employer had a reputation as an abuser of contract talent--they had a
permanent request in to the agency for tech writers, because so few of the
writers who got a contract survived long enough (or were willing) to take on
a second contract with them.

Giving out your SS to a low-yield employer like that might sound like an
acceptable risk if you're hungry enough, so if you do give it out, be sure
and follow up with the credit agencies for a while--one way or another,
they're bound to tell you who has been asking for your profile, and you can
at least see if giving out your SSN has triggered a rash of investigations,
or if the employer even checked you out at all.

In sum, I think you're right to question whether it is appropriate
information to be requested online, even on a secure site. To go even
further, I would think you'd be right to get an explanation of what they
want that information for, who they pass the information acquired by use of
it to, and whether they can work without risk-sensitive personal

I also think you should reciprocate by investigating any employer that asks
for your SSN with your application through the Better Business Bureau and
your State Attorney General's office or the Federal Trade Commission, to see
if their practices have led to complaints. Identity theft is sooo evil, you
owe it to yourself to look into their background, especially before dishing
out your SS# for anything less than a security clearance

BTW, on the subject of job hunting and security clearance requirements, if
you monitor nationwide tech writing opportunities you might see some
interesting-sounding writing jobs at research labs that require security
clearance. These clearance requirements are Catch-22--if you don't have a
clearance, or haven't had one in the past, then you can't get clearance.
Prospective employers won't pay the security investigation costs, and you
can't order one yourself. I know because I went to great lengths trying to
punch through that barrier a few years ago. It is a wierd thing to pursue,
but thankfully most opportunities don't have that sort of requirement.


Ned Bedinger
Ed Wordsmith Technical Communications


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Re: Previous employer contacts: From: Lisa Wright

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