Does Date of Birth Affect Background Checks or Hiring?

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Posted by: David Garcia March 10, 2023

Hiring processes have come a long way when it comes to eliminating discriminatory practices. Federal and state laws prohibit employers from discriminating based on race, disability, sex, gender identity, sexuality, nationality, religion, or veteran status. But one factor that isn’t on that list is age.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 made it illegal for employers to prejudice potential employees based on age. However, while many assume this means that companies can’t ask about a candidate’s age, things are not that straightforward when it comes to asking for a date of birth for hiring or background checks. 

Can an Employer Ask for a Date of Birth (DOB) During the Hiring Process? 

The short answer is yes. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act made it illegal for employers to discriminate against prospective employees based on age. However, it did not prohibit employers from asking for a date of birth.

The reason is that a date of birth is one of two key information points, along with your name, used to run a background check. While it may appear that asking for a birth date exposes the candidate to potential discrimination, it’s necessary for an employer. The birthdate is one of the verification factors in running a background check.  

However, in recent years, several states have sought to tighten their laws around personal data and have begun to redact the full dates of birth from their public records. Michigan and California were two of the first to start and have simply removed one part of the date of birth, for example, the specific day. So, Michael Wallace born on 13th March 1997, becomes Michael Wallace, born March 1997. 

The effect of these changes is certainly still up for debate. Some argue they provide greater privacy and eliminate potential risks of discriminatory practices. Still, others push back and say that they have simply slowed the process regarding background checks.        

How Is DOB Information Used During the Background Check Process?

Running a background check on a prospective employee requires two pieces of information: your full name and date of birth. Searching for a name without a date of birth would significantly delay any identity verification process. There are over 38,000 people called James Smith in the United States, and the only way to differentiate them is by using their date of birth. 

Background screenings verify the first name, middle name, last name, address history, and date of birth. Since names are often similar and address histories can be patchy, the date of birth is one of the essential factors in identifying an individual.  

People may ask why employers can’t use a social security number instead of a date of birth. After all, a social security number is a unique and private identifier with its privacy protected by federal law. However, anyone should be incredibly diligent about giving out their SSN. If a person doesn’t receive a job offer, their SSN is still available on the application.

Using the date of birth is safer and protects job applicants from mistaken identity and identity theft. 

Will Changing Your Date of Birth Pass a Background Check? 

Firstly, we do not recommend falsifying any of the information on a background check. As soon as you start changing data, you put yourself in a tricky situation. From an employer’s perspective, false information gives the impression a prospective employee is lying about their identity or background. It raises suspicion where there might not need to be.

Then there are the real ramifications of lying on job applications. It isn’t against the law to lie on an application because job applications aren’t legal documents. However, it is illegal to sign a statement that all the information on your application was true when you knew it wasn’t. While it’s rare that a company would follow it up with legal proceedings, it would affect your reputation and make companies unlikely to hire you.

Even if you change your birth date, it’s unlikely to accomplish much. Changing your date of birth would lead to one of two results. One, the employer would find no information on you, which is puzzling. It would lead to follow-up questions to correct the mistake. Two, if your name matched with a different date of birth, cross-checks would flag a problem. In either scenario, your background check wouldn’t pass.

Recruiters Can Still Find Applicants Without Their Date of Birth 

The final point is that recruiters can find an applicant’s information even with falsified or missing information. Your full name is often enough to find your background, and even if the name came back with ten people with the same name, a quick cross-reference could pinpoint a specific person.    

Final Thoughts

While it may seem that date of birth is one area that could put older adults at a disadvantage in hiring, federal law prohibits age-related discrimination. It means there’s no reason not to be forthcoming about your date of birth. It’s necessary for background checks, and attempts to mislead a background check with a falsified date of birth will almost certainly fail

Background checks identify whether a person is who they say they are and confirm various aspects of their history. ScoutLogic provides comprehensive background checks quickly and efficiently to allow the employment process to move forward without those unnecessary hold-ups. 

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