The Last Taboo: Job Searching in the Digital Age



The internet has revolutionized the job search, but it hasn’t really changed job seekers’ attitudes about privacy. People share many details of their lives on social media, but looking for a job remains intensely personal. In an age of oversharing, job searching could be described as the last taboo of the digital age.

According to research by Indeed, two thirds of job seekers (65 percent) worry that their job search will become public. Indeed’s recent study, Privacy of Job Search, surveyed 10,000 job seekers in nine countries.

A quarter of job seekers (24 percent) rank their job search as a topic they are least likely to share online. Only personal finances were equally off-limits. Just over half (52 percent) say their biggest concern was work colleagues finding out, far outweighing the fear of not getting a position (29 percent).

Fear breeds extreme secrecy among job applicants: half don’t tell their significant other they are looking for a job. This secrecy triggers strong emotions. Two-thirds (64 percent) say they feel anxious when searching for a new job and a third even feel they are leading a double life.

While most people are happy to share the good news when they land a new job, most prefer to keep their job-seeking journey secret. This has a practical side. Few would want their current employer to know they are looking.

It is crucial that the recruitment industry understands and delivers to this human side of hiring. Here’s how to give job seekers what they want – a simple, fast and private experience:

  1. Have a privacy policy – Be careful with personal information. For example, anonymize candidates’ personal details, conceal names and emails (unless outreach occurs) and don’t share details.  
  2. Put yourself in the job seeker’s shoes – Be aware of the time demands of a job search. Try to avoid calling candidates back for multiple interviews, as it may put them in an awkward position with a current employer. If necessary, do all interviews on the same day. Give candidates a good experience, even if you don’t end up hiring them.
  3. School hiring managers in discretion – It’s a small world. Candidates may know others interviewing at your company. Respect their fear that word of their search could get back to their employer. Always respect confidentiality. 


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