Confidentiality is the cornerstone of any retained executive search practice. It is critical for the job seeker to have a comfort level that discussions about potential opportunities are kept in confidence. If a company finds out that that an employee is looking, it can jeopardize that person’s current situation. Employers also have a need for discretion when seeking new talent. They might be looking to replace an existing employee or need to be sensitive to internal candidates who may feel that they are next in line for a coveted position. The experienced search consultant can deftly handle any of these scenarios. But what happens when human intervention is taken out of the mix? When using recruitment websites, both the employer and job seeker must take extreme care. Over the past few years I have seen myriad of ways that confidence can be broken. Some are readily apparent, but some are quite subtle. Let us first examine tips for the job seeker.
Most internet job boards allow job seekers to register and post their resumes as “confidential” candidates. . Best practice companies are drawn to these individuals because they are most likely passive candidates, “A” players who are not actively looking for a job but are willing to hear about potential opportunities. When posting one’s resume on a website, it critical to examine what “confidential” means, specific to that job board. What information will an employer see when looking at a job seeker’s credentials? What won’t they see? Will one have the ability to view one’s profile exactly as the employer will see it? If the instructions are not clear on the website, the candidate should call the provider directly to clarify. I have seen many profiles where certain data have been blocked out in one section but visible in another (this happens often when candidates can copy and paste information into a field). Depending on the technology, the only way an employer can contact a confidential candidate is directly though the website. Should a candidate need to leave a contact e-mail address, using a corporate one (ex: [email protected]) is not advisable. Overall, the candidate wants to be able to give an employer enough information regarding his/her skills and responsibilities so that interest is peaked, but not so detailed that it compromise the candidate’s present position. The senior level executive has to be even more careful. A “group sales manager” for a luxury hotel in Los Angeles is fairly ambiguous, but a “VP of Purchasing” for an 8-property group in Chicago is more revealing, especially when combined with other information in the profile. It is an intimate circle at the corporate level of the hospitality industry. In fact, confidential or not, I am surprised to see so many senior-level, even CEO resumes online. Networking and speaking with select retained executive search firms are much more attractive ways to sell and market oneself at that level.
Companies, too, need to be cautious about how and where they post their confidential positions. Internal communication is key in this regard. A common mistake is that a confidential job can appear on their corporate board or on other recruitment sites, because human resources was not informed of the need for discretion. Like a confidential candidate, an employer must craft a detailed job posting that will elicit responses, but which doesn’t divulge the company, (ex: fortune 500 coffee chain rated a top company to work for seeks a CFO). Contact information given through a posting must be guarded as well. Other than applying directly online, a separate “hotmail” or “yahoo” e-mail address can be created for the hiring authority. It is relatively easy these days to do a reverse look-up for a fax number through the Internet. A savvy job seeker will want to research a company as much as possible to gain an edge. And once someone gets the inside information, it won’t take long to get around. At some point all confidential searches must be revealed, but employers need to control the process as best as possible.
Topics such as personal privacy and identity theft are becoming more prevalent as our society has shifted to communicate through electronic mediums. Entirely new business models have grown out of a need to protect this information. As recruitment and career services are increasingly conducted through the internet, companies and individuals need to be vigilant about how their information is both seen and disseminated.