One of the many, many, frustrating things about applying to jobs these days is the absolute unabashed way employers require information in the early stages of the job search that you wouldn’t provide to close family members without three forms of written guarantee that this information will not be used for evil.
This is even before the interview, when you are asked “what is your greatest weakness” without the bat of an eye. I’d go into this more, but the Human Workplace did a much better job of showing how utterly ridiculous that question is to ask of any fellow human being in a civilized conversation. I love their blogs, and encourage you to spend some time on their island of sanity amidst the sea of crazy.
No, I’m talking about requests in the very first contact with that company. What do I mean? Here are three things that Becky and I have been asked to provide for initial job applications.
- Salary History
- Social Security Number
- Residence History
Strap in, cause I’m about to get my inner Lewis Black on.
Why Asking for Salary History is Horribly Hateful
Sometimes entering your salary history is optional, and when you are in the middle of applying to jobs and afraid to anger the HR gods, you feel that not supplying them every single bit of info about you might be the difference between being hired and continuing on the lonely job applying path.
This fear of angering those HR gods is hard to ignore. Mostly because the fear is SCREAMING at you while you divvy up the resume you have spent hours crafting to perfection only to have to kill it, kill it dead, to fill in the rigid boxes on the application site (I hate you, Taleo, with the passion of 1,000 starving devil babies!). And that SCREAMING takes the voice of the many, many job advice columns like this particularly hateful one that have struck in you the fear of annoying the HR gods and their sword of pickiness if you, lord help us, use a phrase like “team player” or “excellent communication skills” in your resume, even though those words are in the job description as desired qualities and not including them and writing like a goddamn human will result in the resume keyword scanners throwing your submission in the black hole.
Do not put down your salary history – it ONLY serves to hurt you. Either you don’t make what they pay and they will immediately reject you, or you make more and they will immediately reject you. Or they use it against you in negotiations. It doesn’t matter what you made previously. What matters is what you are worth, what the going market rate for that position is, and how you can help their organization. If forced to list previous salary, I would usually put in $500 a year.
Why Asking for Your SS# and Residence History is Also Hateful
Nor do they need your social security number or residence history. Not at this point in the game. If you are applying for a position where you have to deal with kids or sensitive information, yes, it will be relevant. But not at first blush. And not for marketing jobs. You haven’t even bought me dinner yet, HR buddy. And seriously, potential employer, why are you collecting 500 social security numbers for one position? Tops, you might need the number from your top five candidates for background checks. But 500 numbers is a lot of info you have on your easily hacked computers and is just one data loss from a lawsuit waiting to ruin your business, right? Stop it. Stop it now!
Frankly, I’m not sure why there aren’t a ton of stories about scam job postings that ask for this information for identity theft purposes given that so many people are willing to give it away for the possibility of getting an interview.
Sometimes back when I was filling out apps for Becky, I would put in a fake social security number when there was no way to move on in the application until I filled the box. I would leave a polite note in the next empty box about the fake number and why I made it up. Big surprise, that never resulted in a call back. Worse, and so absolutely insane making, it’s a miracle my computer screen isn’t lying in pieces outside the window with my broken soul, is when you spend 90 minutes filling out the little online boxes and THEN it goes to a new screen that asks for your SS#. AARGH!!
Oh, and really? You’re going to have me track down my last ten years of residences? Thanks for adding about an hour or two of useless busywork to your application process only to never even send a form letter rejection for my troubles. What possible reason do you need my residence history to determine my ability to perform the tasks in your job description? “Oh, my. This one lived in apartment number 105. Too bad, 104’s are better at multi-tasking.”
Deep breath. Move on. And try to believe that they aren’t worth it. If they are already treating you more like a number than a potential partner in their future, you seriously don’t want to work for them.