How strictly is the letter of the law followed in reviewing job applications?
August 10, 2009 4:56 AM   Subscribe

How confidential is confidential when applying for a job with a small pool of colleagues?

I am going to be applying for a job in another city, and an employer at the place I will be applying to and likely one of the people making hiring decisions has a very close connection to place where I work now.

I am planning on putting down on the application to please not contact my current employer (there is a field in the online application to do this).

Does anyone have an idea of how strictly this request is generally followed? I would rather my current employer didn't know I was searching for a new job, but considering how close the person I know at the position I'm applying to is to my current organization, I'm afraid that word will get around.

So, if you are in HR or had experience in the past hiring people, can you tell me how strictly you followed the letter of the law here? Or if you have any general knowledge about this issue, I would love to hear thoughts.

Thanks in advance.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Does anyone have an idea of how strictly this request is generally followed?

You can't stop word from getting around informally, but as a part of the hiring process, your wishes are already generally followed, especially if discretion is actually requested. But even without that, and apart from the the particulars of your situation, everyone realizes that you can't usually contact a current employer.

Previous employers, yes. Current? Definite faux pas.
posted by rokusan at 5:56 AM on August 10, 2009

I have heard that employees of mine were looking for work through the grapevine many, many times. They won't call and do a formal reference check or anything like that, but if they are friends they may well call someone at your current office. I have had it happen frequently, but it is usually not the HR person or the hiring manager. Typically, the hiring manager will ask people in his organization who have worked with you for their opinion and one of them spills the beans. I think there is considerable risk that you are exposed.
posted by Lame_username at 6:24 AM on August 10, 2009

FWIW a lot of my peers in my field generally put "Current Employer - Name upon request" along with all their responsibilities at said employer. If you're one of five velociraptor archaeologits in the world, I don't think there's anything you can do to prevent complete information leak, only mitigate it.
posted by teabag at 6:52 AM on August 10, 2009

By checking that box that means the HR person at the company you are applying to won't call the HR person at your current company and formally request verification of your employment, etc. It will absolutely not stop someone from calling up a friend at your current company and asking for the scoop on you. As an HR person this is a huge reason why we like to know HR people at many different companies, the off the record information is always much better.

Now that said, when you talk to the hiring managers I would mention it again, sometimes appealing straight to them to not call up their buddy can work. They've all been in this situation before as well and they understand.
posted by magnetsphere at 9:43 AM on August 10, 2009

I'd hope that they wouldn't contact the current employer in any way, especially since they specifically have a check box for that. That being said:

Previous employers, yes. Current? Definite faux pas.

While it may be a faux pas, it does happen. At my last office, someone I worked closely with was unhappy and applied for a similar professional job at what was essentially a competitor. That competitor then called the current boss to verify the employment and, it seems, to check and see what kind of worker they'd be hiring. My coworker got called into the boss's office immediately following the call for a very angry conversation. I'm not saying either the competitor or the boss were correct in their actions/reactions, but it's a data point. Not all hiring managers are as savvy as you might hope.

It became awkward for me when, several moments after my coworker was called into the bosses office following the call, the competitor called me, in the office next door, to verify employment and see what kind of worker they were looking at hiring, since my boss wouldn't give them answers.

I repeat, some hiring managers are not as savvy as you might hope.
posted by This Guy at 11:49 AM on August 10, 2009

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