Confidential information is any piece of data that you want to keep completely private, whether for business or personal reasons. If you send confidential information to another party, it is a risky action. You should secure the confidential message just as you would protect anything that you believe has a high value.
Businesses commonly send confidential information to other business associates or colleagues regarding top-secret projects. One example is if one company is considering a merger with another, needs to communicate the proposed plan and doesn’t want competitors to know just yet. Another common scenario where one party has to transmit confidential information is if a movie writer wants to send an unreleased script to a director. An employer could send a confidential employment offer to a candidate, or the candidate could ask to keep his application private. In all three cases, it is wise to compose a confidentiality cover letter as a preamble to the information enclosed.
Why a Cover Letter?
When you send confidential information, whether via email or mail, you risk it being intercepted by unauthorized third parties. But even if the information reaches its recipient safely, you still risk carelessness on the part of the intended recipient when it comes to managing the information and keeping it private. You can minimize the risk by composing a cover letter that reinforces your desire for complete confidentiality.
What to Include
One of the first items to include on a cover letter is the label “Confidential” or “Personal and Confidential” printed in bold, capitalized lettering across the top or directly above the body of the letter. Remind the recipient in general terms what the communication is in reference to, such as “the discussion we had recently regarding Project X.” Express clearly that all contents of what the recipient is about to read is to be held in complete confidentiality — no party should view it except explicitly named recipients.
Before you send a confidential document to another party in certain circumstances, it is wise to get the person to review and sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) — especially if it is extremely confidential data. The NDA defines what is included when you refer to confidential information, the obligations of the recipient and any specific timeline for keeping the information private. Reaffirm the key terms of your nondisclosure agreement in your cover letter. You should also include a copy of the signed NDA directly behind the cover letter as well.