Keeping it Confidential: Advice for Job Hunting During COVID-19

It is late November 2020. You have worked with your organisation for four years, your performance reviews are above average, you have worked through COVID-19 and settled into a routine of splitting your time between working from home and the office. HR has just called you in and asked whether you are happy. You have…

Keeping it Confidential: Advice for Job Hunting During COVID-19

It is late November 2020. You have worked with your organisation for four years, your performance reviews are above average, you have worked through COVID-19 and settled into a routine of splitting your time between working from home and the office. HR has just called you in and asked whether you are happy. You have no idea what they are talking about – they say that they have become aware you are actively looking for a job, but you are not!

Then, in mid-December, HR calls you in again and informs you that due to lingering effects of COVID-19 your role is being made redundant. You are the only person in your section who has lost their job. What has happened here?

When unemployment is low, most employers will do much more than they otherwise would to hold onto staff and at the same time, candidates are supremely confident that if they lose their job, they will have their choice of other opportunities.

In high unemployment, however, employees are much more vulnerable, and rightly or wrongly, employers assume that if they lose a team member, that person will easily be replaced. If an employer believes an employee is actively looking for another role, then logically they will assume that the employee is not happy and if there is any need to reduce staff, they will probably be one of the first to be let go. 

Confidentiality is Key, Knowledge is Power

With the advent of platforms such as Seek, LinkedIn and Facebook, “window shopping” job advertisements has become a regular habit for many people. Over the last 20 years, applying for a job has become an almost seamless process, so much so that it is sometimes done without any real intention of taking the role. The problem is that every move you make on these platforms is being recorded, digested, and even sold! 

Did you know that online job boards have algorithms which, based on your clicks, interpret your “approachability” status, or, in other words, whether you are likely to be interested in being approached for a job?  

Although these algorithms are “secret,” it does not take a rocket scientist to understand that actions such as updating your profile, repeated site visits and, of course, job applications, will all have varying significance to your likelihood to respond to a job offer. These job boards then sell your status to recruiters and employers, and here’s the thing: If your company uses these same job boards, then they can see that you are looking at other roles and may conclude you are not happy in your current position.

Job boards and social media companies hide behind a very thin veil of “not selling your data.” What they do not adequately explain is that they are harvesting your actions on their site, converting these actions into a “job market status” and then appending your confidential data to that status. 

It’s not just the job boards that are doing this. On the hirer or employer side, there has been a practice for at least the last 15 years of gathering your information and storing it without your permission. Let me share how this works. Every time you submit a resume for a job, that resume makes its way to an employer applicant tracking database where it is stored. This is fine, as long as you have given express permission for your data to be stored.

The issue comes when the company, which has stored your resume, later searches the database of resumes they have complied using various algorithms and as a result, people on those databases are marketed to for future job opportunities. This is no problem in low unemployment, but in high unemployment when jobs are not secure, this is a drama you don’t want to be dealing with.

In a high unemployment environment, any hint that you are looking for another role may count heavily against you being retained in an organisation. The purchase of the algorithmic interpretation of job seekers’ online actions will contribute to people losing their jobs. It does not matter whether you are a senior executive, middle manager or frontline worker – we are all exposed.

At the end of the day, you need to be aware of the potential side effects of your online job search – and prepared to deal with them.

If you need support with navigating the recruitment process in this challenging market, get in touch with us today

Pete Davis is Managing Director of Frontline Recruitment Group (FRG). FRG is a specialist recruitment company with offices across Australia and New Zealand – they have been operating since the early 1990s and have worked in high unemployment environments with job hunters in many different industries. This blog series is about sharing some of the lessons from the past and integrating them with the technology and business practices of today. We hope you enjoy these articles and welcome your opinions.