Regardless of your position and job duties, being a trustworthy employee is as important as – if not more than – your actual job skills and qualifications. Employers want to know that you can be trusted with confidential information and that you won't succumb to pressure from peers and even supervisors if asked to disclose information you shouldn't. During your job search, an interviewer might ask questions to determine how much value you place on privacy and whether you exercise caution concerning confidential matters. Focus your interview answers on your ability to be discreet and to follow company and industry confidentiality standards.
Handling Confidential Matters
Many interviewers might assume that you use common sense in handling confidential matters – disclosing information only to those with a need know is the general practice. But in these days, privacy is critical for organizations. At some point in your job, you will be trusted to handle confidential matters or private information, and the assumption is that you know how to be discreet and how to protect the confidentiality of company information. When interviewers specifically ask about confidentiality, be prepared to give examples of why you can be trusted to maintain and protect confidential matters. Interviewers may begin with general questions about the types of information you had to keep confidential. You may also explain how you stored and destroyed information – without breaking any confidentiality agreements with past employers. For example, you could explain the types of filing and storage systems with which you are familiar, and regulations regarding confidentiality that apply to your industry.
Disclosing Sensitive Information
There may be times when you are required to disclose confidential information. Responding to interview questions about how you disclose confidential information should include examples about determining to whom you disclose certain confidential data. Your examples might include making your disclosure only to company managers whom you know are privy to certain information, by virtue of their position, level of authority or function within the company. For example, you understand that the facilities manager doesn't have a need to know human resources information unless, of course, it is specifically prepared for, or affects, the company's facilities department. Interviewers may then extend their line of questioning to discuss exactly how you took measures to keep information confidential from unauthorized persons when it had to be shared with others who had proper access. Also, employers are interested in knowing how you dealt with any risks involved. For example, you may have had to take a file out of its secure cabinet to share its contents with someone who needed to know the information. In this case, describe the precautions and safeguards you took to ensure the file was returned to its secure location.
Communicating with co-workers is an everyday activity, and if you are in a position to have access to confidential information and they do not, you will need to exercise discretion in both how you handle questions about information they don't have and how you manage your working relationship with co-workers with whom you have a friendly relationship. Employers may ask about your ability to keep confidential information to yourself, despite the temptation to share it with others. In your response, explain that you are capable of separating your friendly relationships from your job duties and obligations to maintain confidentiality. Your answer should display comfort in keeping information confidential from colleagues. Your confidence in yourself in refraining from caving to pressure from co-workers will be well-received by the interviewer.
When you are working with customers or clients in situations requiring discretion and tact, always consider the long-term relationship with them. Employers may want to know how you managed to keep customers and clients happy when you dealt with their confidential information. Your response should assure the interviewer that you carefully guard customers' confidential information and that you understand the importance of maintaining a positive working relationship with them. Providing examples about how you resolve challenges to your discreet approach gives the interviewer a real-world instance on how you interact with customers and how you exercise caution in your dealings with them.
Leyla Norman has been a writer since 2008 and is a certified English as a second language teacher. She also has a master's degree in development studies and a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology.