Does confidentiality mean anything in recruiting?

People talk. They talk about things that don’t matter, and things that have some value. They also talk about things that have value to someone else. Like it or not they even talk about things they shouldn’t.

In many cases, recruitment adds have the disclaimer ” we’ll process your application with confidentiality. ” Yet there are cases where people manage to find out someone had already been telling about that specific job application to an ex-colleague, friend or boss, even before asking the person to come for an interview.

I’m not a recruitment professional, but that doesn’t seem to cover my idea about confidentiality.

A huge effort and a lost candidate

Within the last few months, I have run into a few occasions where I’ve heard about these confidentiality breaches. One candidate said she doesn’t even consider the offer anymore after hearing the recruiting manager talking about her to an old colleague without asking permission. I might be biased but, I’d say the company lost a really great talent by squeaking.

Confidentiality by law

When recruiting, I’ve always been naive and believed that confidentiality is a crucial component of the hiring process. Thanks to some senior colleagues and recruitment savvy HR department back in the day, I was made sure I knew the Finnish Act on the Protection of Privacy in Working Life, chapter 2, section 4. It orders you to gather information primarily from candidates. If you start asking around you should get a candidate’s approval for it. After this, you can start asking around. That covers former colleagues, bosses, and even your own friends.

The smaller the circle, the more certain it is that the inquiry you thought was harmless will catch someone it shouldn’t.

Shut up and respect the candidate’s privacy

So, when you are involved in any recruitment process please remember candidates have provided their application to you in the strictest confidence. Make it a policy to keep the names and details of all candidates confidential and in particular, out of the public.

Not all recruiting managers and recruiters gossip, so please make sure you are not the one who’s making all look bad.