Privacy for Job Candidates
It is necessary to ask lots of questions to people who are applying for a job. There are the fundamental details: name, address and telephone number. Also, there is a potted history: where they have worked, what their educational background is and what training they have received. Finally there come facts about their interests and aspirations, who they are and who they wish to become.
What to AskYou must be very careful not to discriminate against candidates. Each should be chosen on merit, and not on the basis of gender, age, race, religion or disability. You should not ask for information about these aspects of a person’s character if you can avoid it.
However, sometimes there is a real need to do this; for example, to record the race of candidates to ensure you are complying with your policy on equality. In this case, you should explain why you are asking these questions, and typically give applicants the chance to opt out of answering them if they wish.
Everyone involved in the recruitment process should be under orders only to record information that is genuinely relevant to the application. Remember that people whose applications have been turned down have the right, under the Data Protection Act, to access any information you hold about them. It is best to restrict notes to facts that have a direct bearing on their suitability for the role they have applied for.
What Information to KeepIf a candidate’s application is unsuccessful, it is not necessary to permanently store all the information that has been collected about them. Indeed, the Data Protection Act is very clear that personal information collected for a specific purpose – in this case, assessing whether to award the job to this candidate – should be disposed of once that purpose has been fulfilled.
You may wish to keep a skeleton record of the application to assist with future recruitment campaigns. For example, you could keep a record of who has previously applied for which jobs in your organisation, or maintain a mailing list for contacting interested parties when future vacancies arise.
If this is the case, applicants should have agreed to their details being used in this way when they gave them to you, and you must provide a way for them to subsequently opt out. You might also like to take the opportunity to remind people, when you write to inform them that their applications were unsuccessful, what details of theirs you intend to store. However, this should only be a reminder – you must have informed them of the various purposes to which their data would be put when you originally collected it.