How the GDPR is about to change the face of the recruitment industry, for the better

I have been talking about the GDPR for a few months now. I’m excited about it, and I’ll tell you why.

A few months ago I was involved in THIS conversation on social media, which was in response to a post about the hard work that many good recruiters do. It was clear that emotions run high for candidates, especially when they feel they have been mistreated by recruiters. And why wouldn’t they? Bad recruiters treat candidates, and their personal data, badly.

Well, from today, the latest legislation on data privacy, will bring up to date a range of personal privacy regulations that were last established in the 90s, and I think a lot of candidates will appreciate it. The biggest change since then? The internet. The speed, availability, and access of data, the pace at which it can spread. How a moment online can be re-lived thousands of times over, and the hideous fact that once something is sent electronically, it can be sent on to numerous others without your knowledge, and fast.

The internet has been great in so many ways, but with it, very little has been done until now, to control and curb the actions of those who hold our data, and most importantly, we know very little about what people know about us.
Ever found yourself surprised about the number of companies who have your data on file, that you didn’t even know about?

Take a moment to think, how much more data does Google hold on you, than even your Facebook Account? Every search you’ve ever done, where you shop, how much time you spend in places. It collects this data every day, from virtually every individual who owns a smartphone on the planet. Recent studies into data, showed that simply by changing the autocomplete options that drop down on its search bar, Google has the power to change the way we think about things. Now companies like Google will have to ensure they adhere to strict data guidelines for it’s EU user base.

At the recruitment level, we are dealing with people’s most raw personal data, and that’s their wishes, hopes and dreams. Their salary. What they would change about their employer, what privileges they would give up salary for, and where they would like to work. There is nothing more personal. I am sure you have all heard the horror story (which is not just a story) of a recruiter accidentally sending a CV on to the wrong person, directly to the person’s current boss. Imagine that conversation.

Given that we hold such personal data on people, about such a vulnerable area as their livelihood, the GDPR is really the first legislation which will hold the recruitment industry to account.

And I’m looking forward to it, because ultimately it will raise the bar in the recruitment industry. For too long, we have competed against firms able to get away with handling candidates’ data, and ‘owning’ their applications, without even speaking to them!

Here are the key things that will be changing:

1. ‘Reverse-marketing’, i.e. sending your CV around
Much like ‘reverse solicitation’ with our investment industry clients, this little gem of a business has been quietly taking place in recruitment, largely unnoticed, and unchallenged, since I can remember.

Shockingly, among many recruitment agencies, it is considered to be good practice since doing so maximises the chance that you have to place a candidate. This is where your not-so-friendly-recruiter forwards your CV to another company in the same field, but not the actual company that they have actually told you about, but sometimes multiple others, in fact, as many as possible where they have a hiring manager’s email address.

They could be forwarding your CV to companies who:

  • aren’t even hiring for a position
  • they don’t even have a contractual relationship with
  • where they don’t know the quality of the role
  • they don’t know or have never met the employer
  • they have no idea if you would like the role

Crazy, right?

In some cases, when the firm gets found out, the candidate panics that they might lose the interview, the agent often goes back to say that they have some kind of preferred relationship, but from here on in, it will be the candidate’s ultimate power and decision as to who represents them. Recruiters who haven’t built a relationship will lose out and power tactics will not work any longer.

In cases where the agency is sending a CV without actually speaking with the candidate about the role, and the candidate objects, this will be punishable by law, and severely.

2. Companies and Agencies cannot hold candidate’s details without your consent
As of the end of this month, both employers and staffing agencies will have to inform you of how, when and where they hold, process, share and view your data. They will have to provide a legal basis for doing so, either by consent (in which case it must be adequately ‘informed consent’), or on the basis of ‘legitimate interest’. This means that the ongoing capture, or transmission, of your data without being able to justify the benefit to you, or your consent, will become illegal.

3. It increases your right to really choose who represents you
From the end of this month, as a candidate, you own the full right to choose who represents you. Your data, is no longer the preserve of the company, or agent who once represented you. GDPR gives back the full power to candidates to be able to really choose who, and in which ways, they are represented. This means that agencies will have to work harder to build meaningful relationships with their candidates, as outside of the process for which they are first presented, neither the employer (if it was a direct application), nor the agent, can retain the ‘ownership’ of the candidate application once the initial application is over. Most recruitment companies and employers alike, will need to revise their terms and conditions, because ownership is only related to the specific initial application and the candidate is therefore not bound to the agent by a time period of say 6 months or 12 months, from the time the person first applied.

For many years now, lesser quality agents have used fear tactics and pressure to ensure that the candidate stays with their firm, but very soon now, they will lose this ability, as the right of the individual to choose supersedes whatever commercial agreement the agent thinks they have with the client. If you don’t trust the agent representing you, don’t work through them, there will be a whole range of things they are not telling you. Your gut instinct will give you the answer, listen to it.

4. You will have the right to be erased / forgotten from a firm’s database
You will gain the right to be forgotten, in the sense that you, as the consumer, can ultimately decide if you no longer wish to be on somebody’s books. Should you decide an agency has been misrepresenting you, you will be able to ask them to delete you from their database and they will not be able to contact you again.

In many ways the GDPR is the data privacy regulation that a lot of candidates, and high quality recruitment companies like ourselves, have been waiting for. It is about time that agencies stop seeing candidates CVs as commodities, they ‘own’ ‘sell-in’ or ‘place’ at clients, and start seeing them as the real people that they are, and rightly so. I’m looking forward to it.

Rana Hein-Hartmann is the European Director of Funds Partnership, a staffing agency specialised in recruiting for the Funds business in Luxembourg and Europe.

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