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Transparency In the Search Process: How Much to Disclose When Interviewing

When conducting an interview, you have to strike a delicate balance, opening up enough to establish a genuine rapport, while not disclosing so much that you compromise the interview process. When is transparency an asset and when is it a liability? We offer a few suggestions on when to open up and when to shut up.

Lay Your Cards on the Table

There are topics where being candid is essential to a productive interview. These areas focus on getting you and the applicant on the same page. Neither of you will be served by obfuscating on key details of a job, including:

  1. Workplace culture. One of the most important things you do in an interview is project an accurate representation of your company’s culture and values. This allows the interviewee to get a sense of whether or not it’s a good fit in a way they can’t from a website or job description.

  2. Job requirements. Does the job require long hours? Is travel a frequent part of the position? Be up-front about the demands of the job. There’s no point in sugar-coating it now, only to lose an employee later.

  3. Hiring timeline. Don’t keep an applicant in the dark about when they should hear from you and what the next steps are. This doesn’t mean you have to tip your hand about selection, just process. A simple statement is sufficient, such as, “we will notify all applicants at the end of the month whether or not a second interview is requested.” Be sure to allow them to ask any questions they may have about next steps.

Keep your cards close.

When it comes to privacy and final selection, you want to err on the side of caution. Here are a few areas in which you should be particularly careful:

  1. Applicant pool. You should never reveal the identity of other applicants. It’s fair to discuss general numbers of applicants if it comes up, but the interviewee should be interviewing for the position, not against someone else. You should also avoid tipping your hand to that applicant’s odds of getting the job. What if you tell them that they are your top choice, but you aren’t the final one making the decision?

  2. Upcoming initiatives. Don’t reveal too much about future plans of an organization to an individual who may or may not end up working for a company. Remember, individuals don’t have to sign NDAs to interview.

  3. Outgoing employees. It’s important that you protect the privacy of the individual who previously held the position. It’s not appropriate to say why they left or where they may be now, unless that is public knowledge (for example, when the president of a university leaves and a press release is issued).