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The last taboo: Job searching in the digital age

Job seekers are extremely wary of sharing the details of their employment search. Here are three tips to help make their recruitment experience both simple and private.

The internet might have revolutionised the job search, but it hasn’t really changed job seekers’ attitudes about privacy. People share many details of their lives on social media, but looking for a job remains intensely personal. In an age of oversharing, job searching could be described as the last taboo of the digital age.

According to research by Indeed, two thirds of job seekers (65 per cent) worry that their job search will become public. Indeed’s recent study, Privacy of Job Search, surveyed 10,000 job seekers in nine countries, including more than a thousand Australians.

A quarter of Australian job seekers (26 per cent) rank their job search as a topic they are least likely to share online. Only personal finances were equally off limits. Almost half (48 per cent) say their biggest concern was work colleagues finding out, while 38 per cent felt at risk of not getting a role if their job seeking was made public.

Fear breeds extreme secrecy among job applicants: half don’t even tell their significant other they are looking for a job. The study shows this secrecy triggers strong emotions. Two thirds (64 per cent) say they feel anxious when searching for a new job and a third even feel they are leading a double life.

While most people are happy to share the good news when they land a new job, the vast majority prefer to keep their job seeking journey a secret. This has a practical side. Few would want their current employer to know they are looking.

It’s crucial that the recruitment industry understands and caters to this human side of hiring. Here’s how to give job seekers what they want – a simple, fast and private experience:

  • Have a privacy policy – Be careful with personal information. For example, anonymise candidates’ personal details, conceal names and emails (unless outreach occurs) and don’t share these details.
  • Put yourself in the job seeker’s shoes – Be aware of the time demands of a job search. Try to avoid calling candidates back for multiple interviews, as it may put them in an awkward position with a current employer. If necessary, do all interviews on the same day. Give candidates a good experience, even if you don’t end up hiring them.
  • School hiring managers in discretion – It’s a small world. Candidates may know others interviewing at your company. Respect their fear that word of their search could get back to their employer. Always respect confidentiality.

A version of this article referencing the American findings originally appeared in the SHRM blog.

Paul Wolfe is SVP Human Resources at Indeed.

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