Job Candidates have a Right to Access their Stored Personal Information after the Recruitment Process


Katina Michael, University of Wollongong
Deb Tribe, Australian Broadcasting Corporation



Unsuccessful job candidates have every right to ask for records kept about them by any organisation, and this includes an executive recruitment agency, or an individual company where he/she has submitted a job application. Businesses are required to disclose any personal information they have collected on any individual consumer. This is not only direct clientele of the organisation, but also potential new recruits, who missed out on a position with the firm. Businesses are accountable for data handling costs and I do not believe that it is fair to ask individuals to pay for a fundamental service. If you store information about someone, you have to be able to produce that information upon demand. This is akin to charging Australian patients who wish to sight their medical health records. I think it good practice for individuals to follow-up on unsuccessful job interviews and I would encourage this as fundamental feedback mechanism for self-improvement- for instance, it might well be that your CV is letting you down. You might also learn that your skillset did not address the selection criteria appropriately, or that you were not competitive relative to the field. But you might also learn that the person you entrusted to be one of your referees has done you a disservice. I know on many occasions that I have acted as a referee for my own university students that I am always warned that my comments may be accessed by others, including the individual who is going through the recruitment process. I have consented to this process on every occasion. Companies know that this is law, not just best practice. Other more obvious issues that might stand in the way, may include subjective comments made by recruiters during the interview process that are a result of misinterpretations or your outspoken social media presence which you have not hidden under a pseudonym but your real name. Note, it is not just recruiting companies that gather this data. Companies who hire individuals directly might use less sophisticated means of data collection about potential employees going through the shortlisting process. One way however that companies alleviate the burden of this data retention, is to immediately shred all the details and notes taken by employees of candidates after the decision is made by a staff selection team. Usually Human Resources staff will follow up on this process by producing a single document of evidence outlining the shortlisting process, the individual criteria that were/were not met by individual candidates, and whether or not the individual candidate was competitive. A ranking also is made for internal use allowing HR to begin reference checking. All other documents are shredded. This is a basic right that people should be conveying during the recruitment process. But at the same token, there are many who are not aware that they can ask to see the notes taken from psychological assessments on them through the recruitment process, e.g. when joining the Defence Forces. These notes, are usually kept for a substantially long period of time, and some very private information can emerge from these interviews- about one’s past successes and failures, real world examples of incidences, etc Knowing what data people have stored about you as an individual has many benefits. First and foremost you can correct errors made about you. For example, someone might have accidentally ticked a box that says you have a criminal record when in fact you do not, or that you have previously failed to attain a particular level of security clearance. The tricky part however is changing someone else’s subjective assumptions or notes about you. These are usually opinion-based, and while you can challenge these, they are someone else’s assessment of you. Yet this is a part of the transparency movement, that at least you know how to address the matters in the next interview, even if you cannot eradicate them. Some of the disadvantages of access are that people can become even for despondent or depressed about their inability to gain employment in their field of expertise. It is one thing to be turned down for twenty jobs in a row, and another for every single one of those companies to state clearly that you are “not competitive”. Still, this feedback should be taken on board and individuals might seek additional qualifications to overcome particular issues. But the potential for people to uncover things about themselves they cannot change is also something individuals should be ready for. Companies need to adapt to “costs of doing business”. In this new Cloud Computing environment, it does take time, even substantial time on occasion, to find data stored about individuals who have gone through the recruitment process, especially in large organisations. My advice to individuals who have missed out on a job, is to request the information as close to the completed interview process as possible, rather than months away, so as to receive feedback not only in a timely fashion but also accurate feedback. HR departments are increasingly under immense pressure to find scarce talent, often reaching out globally. As a job candidate, you should seek feedback immediately if you do not make a short list, and the stakes get higher after several rounds of interviewing. Companies should realise people invest a great deal of time and energy to go through 2-5 rounds of interviews, so they should be ready to offer commensurate feedback. To then go back and charge them for feedback is pretty bad PR.


Suggested Citation

Katina Michael and Deb Tribe. "Job Candidates have a Right to Access their Stored Personal Information after the Recruitment Process" Afternoons with Deb Tribe 891 ABC Adelaide Oct. 2013: 2.40pm-2.55pm.