Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Job sites and privacy issues (1)

Many people have expressed concerns about the privacy protection actually provided by the current crop of job sites. Despite the fact that most job sites boldly declare "100% privacy protection guaranteed" on their home pages, these concerns seem to continue to remain at the top of the users' minds - with good reason!

Having tired of explaining to each one individually, I have decided that a series of blog entries would help all concerned. In each post of this series, I will try and answer one of the constantly recurring questions. Here goes...

Q. If I register myself on a jobsite, will just anybody and everybody be able to see my resume? Importantly, will my current employer find out?

A. The short answer is yes, mostly. The longer answer follows...

Most job sites, such as naukri, monster, timesjobs and shine provide the user with multiple levels of privacy. It is very important to understand their capabilities and limitations clearly.

The first option provided is the invisibility flag. By default it is set to false so everybody can see you. You can, however, turn it on. What this does is that it effectively makes you invisible to all. Including potential employers and recruiters - which may not be quite what you want! However, you can still log on to the site, search through their list of job postings and apply for one or more of the jobs, just as usual.

The other options that sites provide is a flag that says "Don't let my current employer see me!" Usually, this is set to true by default. While the intent of the job site is good, this option, based on my discussions with many HR departments and recruiters , is pretty much worthless.

The way this option works is that when your current employer uses his/her account to login and search for candidates, you are automatically excluded from the search results so that your employer does not find out that you are actively searching for employment behind his/her back. If other employers log in with their user id / password and search the candidate database, if your profile matches the search criteria, you will be part of the search result. So far so good.

But employers are constantly worried about attrition and are desperate to know who all among their employees are planning to leave. That is quite understandable, especially in industries with high attrition rates like IT and ITES. So, what they do is identify a friendly organization, a sister concern or a recruitment firm that has accounts with some of the popular job sites and exchange account information. So company A uses company B's account, logs in and searches for "All candidates who are currently employed in company A who have updated their profiles in the last x months". Presto! they now have the list of all their employees attempting to jump ship including, unfortunately, you!

Finally, there is the third option, which is to fudge your contact information and any other details specifically identifying you, from your profile. Most job sites do not and cannot check the validity of any of these entries and so your employer will never find your profile online. Of course, there are problems with this approach. which I will address in another blog entry.

In summary, none of the existing job sites can guarantee the kind of privacy protection that you would ideally want. Not that it can't be done, mind you. Complete privacy protection is definitely possible, but you would require serious gumption to implement it! Check out Search In Stealth.

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