15 Feb 2016

Confidentiality and Reputation Management...

For most of us, starting a search for a new job can be a daunting task.  It can take a lot of time and effort and whilst the hope is that it will all be worth it in order to develop our careers, earn more money and enjoy greater job satisfaction (or whatever other criteria you have!).  For many candidates, the subject of confidentiality is an added concern.  This post comes at confidentiality from two angles. 

The first angle is all about discretion.  The majority of my clients don’t like it when their staff leave – it causes them many headaches, from the increased cost in replacing a valued employee to the loss of client continuity and effect on the internal teams.  They particularly don’t like it, when they’re aware of an employee’s job hunt.  We all know that it goes on – although there is another blog in ‘how to keep your staff happy so they don’t leave’.  However, if you are looking to leave your job there are some absolute criteria that you should adhere to.

Don’t conduct your job hunt on company time.  I’m always shocked when I see a candidate use their work email on their CV.  In this day and age, it’s so easy to have personal email, pretty much all of us have smart phones. I can’t see any reasonable argument for using a work email.  Whilst most employers have a policy on use of email in the workplace, I’m pretty sure that using it to find a new job is verboten.  Equally important is not to be checking out competitor websites on your work machine...Be discreet when attending interviews. Most employers will try to accommodate out of hours interviews but if that’s not possible, don’t overdo the number of doctor and dentist ‘appointments’ – it is still important to respect your existing employer or you might find that you’re out of a job anyway.  I shouldn’t need to say this one but don’t advertise the fact that you’re job-hunting on social media – unless of course you are available immediately/not in a role.

If you’re working with a recruiter, make them aware how important it is that your search is as confidential as possible.  It can never be absolutely guaranteed – after all, you are putting yourself on the job market and potential employers need to know your current employer and your name too.  However, most employers are sympathetic to this and recruiters can reinforce the message too.  If applying directly to companies, it is worth stating that you would be grateful for confidentiality, particularly in a small market-place.

Which leads me to the second angle.  The marketing agency market-place in the North is small.  The individual cities of Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool are all small pots of talent with a finite number of employers for candidates to choose from.  These markets are incestuous and what I can’t do as a recruiter, is prevent employers from ‘asking around’ – some things are outside my control.  For the most part, most of my clients are very professional and decent people, they’re looking to minimise any risk in employing new staff and one of the ways they do that is to ask friends and colleagues if they’d recommend a particular person if that CV has landed on their desk.  Typically they’re not doing it in a vengeful fashion but let’s say for example that the MD of one business is close friends with the MD of another business and a candidate’s CV appears in front of MD 1, he may well make MD2 aware that one of his number is hunting for a new job.  What is increasingly happening though is that it’s going on within the ‘ranks’.  Recently, one of my Account Managers was rejected for a role because the recruiting Account Director had previously worked with a Designer who had worked with the Account Manager.  After a couple of exchanges, it transpired that the Designer didn’t really ‘rate’ the Account Manager and so the Account Director didn’t even interview the candidate.  I did argue the point that the candidate was well qualified for the role and surely deserved the opportunity to interview, but no.  Equally there are people in the business whose reputations do go before them and this can be very damaging during the job hunt process.  I’ve had another recent example of a very senior individual who didn’t have a great reputation (candidates actually left the agency because of this person).  Then when the senior individual came to look for a new role....well, it wasn’t easy and they have since moved to another region.

So the point here is that in a small market-place, it’s important to not make too many enemies.  It’s a small world and whilst we can’t go through our lives trying to be everyone’s best buddy, we should be aware that a poor reputation can harm our job prospects.  Do your job well and respect your colleagues.  Longevity in roles is the one thing that will counter any negative reputation comments (you’re clearly good at your job and can manage relationships if you’ve been in a role for over 2 years).  If you’ve been a job hopper, the combination of any negative feedback together with a high number of jobs can be disastrous.

Of course, it can go the other way too!  Glowing feedback from previous friends and colleagues in the industry can fast-track an individual through the recruitment process.  That’s worth remembering too...