Protecting Employee Identities: Four Steps to Keeping Job Applications Secure

By Cindy Graham | July 13, 2005

Those looking for part time or temporary jobs can be targets for identity theft. Think about it. How many times have you filled out your social security number or other important information just to get an interview? The fact is, job application forms often ask for vital personal information that could get in the hands of potential thieves.

As employers, we need to change our mindset about how we collect information. Applications will take some time to modify, but job seekers will eventually stop furnishing this personal information and employers should take action to protect the identities of their current and future workers.

Any unsecure information could end up in the wrong hands, which could be a potentially costly problem for a business. Applications lost in the process could provide identity thieves with all the information they need to ruin a life. If stolen information can be traced back to your company files, you and your company may be held responsible. Fines can cost up to $2,500 per incident. A locked file cabinet costs much less than that!

There are certain actions businesses can take right away. The first step is establishing and implementing a privacy policy, especially one that deals specifically with employees who handle job applications. A secure chain of communication, along with handling and storage of application forms, should also be discussed and strictly adhered to. The personal information on a job application should be treated as securely as your company’s payroll account. Not all employees have access to this confidential information, and not all employees should be able to handle potential employees’ personal information either.

Consider doing a background check on all employees who will handle any employee, client or company information. Even a credit check can provide clues to the character of an employee.

Here are some guidelines to establish a secure procedure for accepting job applications and resumes:

Designate who is allowed to accept applications.

Not all employees should accept application forms. By limiting the employees who can accept forms, you will limit the exposure of personal information contained on the forms.

Designate procedures for handling the application forms.

If the person designated to accept the form is not a supervisor or an HR manager, then write out procedures for keeping the forms until they are securely passed along. Will the forms be stored in a safe file, a sealed envelope initialed by the employee, or placed in a secured mail slot?

Secure files and interviews.

Supervisors or HR personnel should provide secure files for all pending applicants and all employee files. Interviews should be conducted in a safe location, where other employees, customers or bystanders cannot overhear information given by the potential employee. All information obtained during an interview should be protected and access should be limited.

I-9 Information.

Qualified personnel should only obtain identity verification information asked for on I-9 forms. This information should be kept securely with the application. Access to these forms should also be limited to authorized personnel only.

Many employers are not in tune to the possibilities that identity theft can happen in the business arena. If job applicants are not satisfied that their information will be kept secure, they must determine if the risk is worth the job.

Employers must become aware that employee information can be a wonderful source for the thief on the prowl. Any pending applications or current employee information not kept in a secure place will eventually be found and used by identity thieves. This could result in fines and negative media exposure.

Customers return because they trust a business. Take the initiative. Show your employees, prospects and customers that you have a strict privacy policy that will keep their information safe.