There are good reasons that employers might want or need to have a confidential job listing and conduct a confidential search. Here are some common reasons we hear from employers:
- We need to let the person who is currently in this role go, but can’t do it until we have a replacement in place.
- We don’t want to get calls or emails from every applicant who applies – keep our name off the ad!
- We don’t want our competition to know we’re hiring.
- We don’t want other employees to know the salary range or other details about this position
As an owner and employer I empathize with all these concerns and feel they are reasonable. But (you knew it was coming, right?), there are a few important reasons to think long and hard about the decision to execute a confidential recruiting process. Posting a confidential job listing or ad can have several unintended consequences which need to be considered before the final decision is made.
You may not be able to win the war for the best available talent if the ad is confidential. Loosing a few candidates wasn’t much of a concern just a few short years ago, when very few companies were hiring. But today, competition for candidates is heating up. A confidential job listing can hurt your ability to attract top talent.
Candidates are sophisticated consumers and will do research on the employer, looking at employee reviews and LinkedIn before they invest time in the application process. If the candidate can’t verify what they see in the ad, they may not invest their time and effort to apply. You could get a much lower candidate response rate with a confidential ad and recruiting process.
In order to maintain confidentiality, the ad is likely to be less specific and won’t include identifying information like key products, key markets, projects or attractive details about your work-place and culture. Omitting this information may make the ad less attractive to the top tier of candidates.
You will also miss out on valuable free advertising. Indeed.com (the largest and currently most important job board) doesn’t allow organic ads (free) for confidential jobs. You can advertise on Indeed, but you’ll have to pay for it. Additionally, you won’t be able to post the job on your own website, losing important free access to prospective candidates.
Remember that secrets are hard to keep, even when you run an ad that is stripped of most identifying information. In today’s interconnected, hyper-communicating, social-media-minded, technology-driven, nothing-is-private world, the employer might not remain private; especially if the person you want to replace sees the ad.
We’ve seen it happen! The employee sees their own job advertised and marches into the boss’s office in a huff. “Why are you advertising my job? Am I getting fired?” They demand information, they are mad. The conversation can be difficult, poorly timed and extremely disruptive.
How did this employee even find out? Typically, if you, the employer, are unhappy with this employee’s job performance, they are unhappy too. Unhappy employees are on the job market. Job seekers often set up automated alerts. Notifications of open jobs arrive daily in their inbox, and they recognize their own job, even if you’ve stripped out most of the company specific information.
If you are planning to recruit confidentially and let someone go once the new person is on board, I’d like to suggest an alternative approach. Have the hard conversation BEFORE you start recruiting. This strategy puts you in the driver’s seat, controlling the timing and tone of the conversation. You are more likely to have a better outcome, a better, more amicable separation and likely a smoother transition. Additionally, now you can include company specific information in the ad, improving the likelihood of attracting top talent.
If you’ve thought long and hard, weighing the risks and benefits of launching a confidential search, and you’re willing to take the risks, move forward with the confidential recruiting and post the confidential ad. But if you’re having second thoughts, maybe it’s time to explore an alternative approach.