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May I wait to disclose vital statistics?

Jan 2007

Q. Sometimes, as I arrive at a prospective employer's office for a first interview, the receptionist hands me an application that must be filled out before the HR manager interviews me. This protocol seems to take the focus of the interview away from my candidacy. I prefer not to disclose personal information such as salary history, age, Social Security number, etc. before we've discussed my skills, my experience, and the benefits I can bring to the organization. How can I handle this situation tactfully without giving offense?

A. Organizations sometimes expect applicants to complete an application so that they can standardize the information they collect from candidates. Yet although an employer may request your Social Security number, date of birth, or driver’s license number when conducting a reference check on you, you don’t have to release your personal information to a prospective employer. You certainly don't have to release it before you have spoken with someone.

Most employers ask applicants to provide their legal name, address, telephone number, educational background, and work experience. An employer needs this information to contact you for an interview, and to determine whether your experience and skills are an appropriate fit for the open position. An employer may also ask you for the name of a previous supervisor they can call to verify your work experience. But if you don't feel comfortable furnishing such information, let the prospective employer know why.

There is a tactful way to tell a prospective employer you don’t feel comfortable giving out personal information. Simply say you’ll be more than happy to provide such information when you're hired. Most hiring managers and HR representatives recognize and respect a candidate's privacy, and will not demand personal information unless it is critical to the hiring process.

When I have screened candidates who have not provided personal information, it has never affected whether the candidate was hired or not. Ultimately, a company wants to hire someone who meets the qualifications of the job and has represented himself or herself truthfully, hence a reference check.

Good luck on your search.

- Erisa Ojimba, Certified Compensation Professional

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