We should all know by now that oversharing on social media comes with risks—and you don’t need to go as far as the guy who posted video of himself licking taco shells at the restaurant where he worked. (Yes, he was fired). Oversharing can also get you arrested.
Even so, these days people overshare so much that commentators regularly proclaim that privacy is dead. As for me, I’m not convinced. I think it still matters to people—especially when it comes to job search.
Don’t just take my word for it. Here at Indeed we recently conducted a survey of 10,000 people in nine countries to identify their concerns about job search. What did we find? Two thirds (65%) of job seekers worldwide are worried that others will find out they are looking for a new job. The number for the US is slightly higher—here, 66% expressed concern that their job seeking activities would be found out.
Is privacy dead? It doesn’t look like it.
Only personal finances are more sensitive than job search
So just how sensitive is job search for candidates? Half of our respondents said they feel “secretive” (50%) about job search, while a third (33%) went further, stating that they feel as though they are leading “a double life.”
A quarter of job seekers (24%) worldwide ranked their quest for a job as the topic they would be least likely to share online. However if you think that’s a low number then consider that in the US the number is much, much lower: 7.6%. Only the details of personal finances are considered more sensitive.
In the US, 52% of respondents said that their biggest concern about conducting a job search is that their colleagues at work might find out. As for the risk of of not getting a position? Only 29% were worried about that. Being discovered is a far greater concern.
More than half of Americans keep job search secret from their partners
So what’s so taboo about job search? Clearly many people fear the repercussions if their current employer finds out about it. But there’s more to it than that: it turns out that many people are even reluctant to discuss job search with their loved ones.
Worldwide, half (50%) of job seekers wouldn’t tell a partner when applying for a role. Americans are still more secretive: here, 58% would not tell their partner they were looking for a job.
By contrast, deeply personal matters such as breakups may be easier for people to share than job search. Nearly a third (31%) of people ranked relationships as the topic they’re most likely to talk about online. In the US, it’s even higher—36%.
We showed our findings to Professor Paul Dolan, Behavioral Economist at London School of Economics. He suggested “Admitting that we are looking for a job means exposing others to our potential success or failure. To avoid embarrassing ourselves, we choose to hide our searches.”
Is that the best approach? Perhaps not. Professor Dolan suggests that “it may be far more useful, for ourselves and for others, to highlight failures when they occur.” We learn from our mistakes, after all. But even so, job search is highly private and employers need to be aware of this.
What this means for employers
Clearly, it is crucial for recruiters and hiring managers to respect job seeker privacy at all times. We all understand this in principle, but what does it mean in practice?
Second: put yourself in the shoes of the job seeker. Nowadays some companies can be really demanding and call candidates back for multiple interviews. That’s understandable since we all want to make a great hire, but it can put the candidate in an awkward position with their current employer, especially if they keep having to take time off for a job they may not get. If possible, do all your interviews on a single day. If you respect a candidate’s time and give them a good experience, you are more likely to get good word of mouth—even if you don’t end up hiring them.
Third: train your hiring managers to be discreet about the candidates they meet with. It’s a small world (especially in the age of social media) and you may get candidates who know each other coming in for interview at your company. Maybe they both work at the same company, and are worried that word of their job hunt could get back to their employers. You should always respect their confidentiality.
Paul Wolfe is SVP of Human Resources at Indeed.
Methodology: Censuswide conducted a survey of 10,000 people in nine countries for Indeed.