How to Recruit and Hire Confidentially

Chuck Smith —  May 30, 2013 — Leave a comment

Secret hiring

It is often not the first choice or the best choice, but there are times when an employer must conduct a confidential search to find and hire a new employee. Perhaps you’ve come to depend on a “good employee gone bad” and can’t fire until you hire, or perhaps you don’t want the competition to know you are in the market for talent. Whatever the reason, here are a few tips on how to keep your confidential search confidential:

Keep the circle small.

The fewer people who know about the confidential search within your own company, the more likely the search will remain confidential.

Write the ad to be attractive to your target candidate.

Write your recruitment advertisement as if the search is not a secret, but then carefully edit the ad looking for information that may give away your identity. Why go to the trouble? Even though you are not giving away the name of your company, exact location and industry, you still need to include the information that will attract talent.

Take out identifying information.

Remove the obvious items like company name, website and geography (especially if you are in a smaller town). Then think about the less obvious stuff. Is your company identifiable by its industry? If you are the only fish hatchery in your area, then identifying your industry will give away your identity. On the other hand, most places have many seafood restaurants. You may also have to exclude special designations (like an MBE / WBE / DBE) that can identify you.

Place your advertising confidentially.

Make sure that your company name is NOT included in job ads. Many sites, like Indeed and Craigslist, require registration so that they have your contact information and have additional fields or processes to make the posting blind or confidential. Recruiting and applicant tracking software often has ways to post jobs confidentially.

Give candidates a way to respond privately.

Once your advertising is live, job seekers will respond. Calling the main phone number of your company is not a good option for keeping things confidential. Even using your own email address can be a giveaway. Some people create a separate email account from a public provider like Gmail or Yahoo to receive resumes. If your company uses Recruiting Software or an applicant tracking system, it should have a way to manage confidential responses.

Reinforce confidentiality with your candidates.

Once you begin speaking to candidates remember to explain to them why the search is confidential and ask them to respect the process.

Be prepared for failure.

Sometimes all of the preparation and precautions fail and the word gets out that you are hiring. Be prepared to deal with the consequences. Which brings up another question:  Why does the recruiting have to be confidential? See related post.

When it comes to confidential recruiting and hiring, don’t do it unless you have to. And if you do, be careful!

Have you had to hire in secret before? How did it go?

Chuck Smith


Chuck is a sought-after speaker on issues of talent acquisition, recruiting and hiring best practices with more than 20 years of experience under his belt. When not running his business, you'll find him in Hyde Park playing ultimate frisbee with his friends & family. Connect with him on Google+.

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