If you ever tried to interview someone at Google or Facebook–a technician, or programmer, or perhaps a business development manager, you will quickly find out one thing: It is almost impossible to get an informational interview, unless you already work for the company.

Each new employee has to sign a confidentiality agreement (also known as NDA), a pretty strict one to be honest. Nobody will risk breaching it and bearing the consequences. And so nobody will tell you anything important, or anything at all :).

The tech giants understand the power of data and information. Their core business relies on them after all. Many other companies follow the suit, and they do not rely only on NDA. They simply want to hire people who can keep sensitive matters private.

In this article we will look at 7 questions (some simple and some elaborate) you may get in your interview, questions that relate to confidentiality. Let’s start!

 

In your opinion, how should we store records of our employees, such medical records, and employment contracts?

Ensure the interviewers that you understand that such data and records are sensitive, and should not leak outside of the company. You can suggest either keeping them in a safe place. Secured office in a company (behind two locks at least, one on the door, and another one protecting the drawer, but ideally more than two locks) is a decent protection for these types of documents.

Alternatively you can also say that only employees who really need the information should have access to the documents, and that everyone with an access should sign an NDA first, to ensure that they won’t sell or simply share the information with a third party.

You can also opt for digital records, and if that’s the case, proper password protection and top-notch firewall is a must.

computer, book and phone in chains, illustration of some security

Imagine that one of your friends asks you about the new program you work on in the company. They promise not to tell anyone, and you consider them reliable. What will you do?

Do not get caught in this trap. Dismiss any idea of sharing the details of your work with the friend, or even with a colleague who has no business to know.

You can say that you may give them some hint, but a very vague one–after all you are friends. In any case, you won’t share any sensitive information with anyone--including your boyfriend/girlfriend, or members of your family.

Because nobody can be trusted 100%, and if you work on some exciting innovations or designs, they may eventually share the information with a third party (likely with no bad intentions), and at the end it may leak to the competitor, and your company will lose the competitive edge.

That would be a disaster, you are well aware, and therefor won’t share anything with anybody.

* Special Tip: Interview questions about confidentiality aren’t the only tricky questions you will face while interviewing for a job in any Fortune 500 corporation. If you want to avoid “interview headaches”, and finally streamline your preparation for the big day, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Up to 10 premium answers for each difficult interview question will help you stand out in the interviews, impress the hiring managers, and get an amazing offer at the end. Do not miss this opportunity…

 

Here is a random employee card (they hand you a card, can be real but also fake). Look at it and tell us what data you consider sensitive.

This is another trick. Say that everything is sensitive–starting with their phone number and address, and ending with any records about their working hours, salary, driving license, etc.

Certainly if you apply for a job in HR you may have access to such records (you may need them in your work). You should still ensure the interviewers that you consider the information confidential, and plan to keep it private.

You won’t share the data even with a senior manager (for example if they asked about them during a team meeting), simply because they are confidential, and the manager has no business in viewing them.

 

Imagine that you overheard your colleague sharing a sensitive information about the CEO with someone else in the company. What would you do?

Say that first and foremost you would not share the news with any other colleague–regardless of how intriguing the gossip was. But you would take it one step further. If you really considered the information sensitive, you would actually report the employee who shared it.

Now, in reality you may not report them. But in an interview you should tell the hiring managers what they want to hear from an ideal job candidate. If they ask you this question (or a similar one), they want to hear that you’d report the colleague who breached the confidentiality agreement.

man is nervous on the phone, sharing a sensitive information with his colleague

You will meet a lot of partners and prospects during business meetings in this company. How do you know what information you are allowed to share about our products or business process?

The right answer changes from one business field to another. Obviously, nobody will buy an expensive product from you, if you do not share any details about it. Claiming that it was the best product out there (in B2B segment) won’t take you far in your sales efforts.

What I suggest is saying that you will share features and USPs of the product or service (and perhaps even let them see it, try it if possible), but you won’t share any description of a production process, marketing techniques, or of anything else that helps the company to design and sell such an excellent product (with such an excellent margin).

 

Describe, step by step, how you would respond to a sexual harassment complaint.

You may get this question when applying for any role in HR, or management, or in compliance, or even for a job at school (assistant principal, counselor).

Now, certainly you should ensure them that you won’t take the matter lightly, and will properly investigate the case. At the same time, however, you’d take measures to ensure the privacy of the complaining party, and ideally even of the alleged offender, since you should not make any judgements or actions against anybody, before you properly investigated the case.

 

Imagine that you received an email or letter that was intended for someone else in the company, and contains sensitive information about someone from your colleagues. What would you do in this situation?

Just like with many other behavioral questions, your attitude matters the most for the interviewers. You should suggest doing the following:

  • Deleting the email, or shredding the letter immediately.
  • Not sharing the sensitive information with anyone–you will effectively try to forget them :).
  • Reporting the mistake to the original sender of the message, to ensure they won’t make the same mistake again.

 

Conclusion, final ideas

Confidentiality is important in almost every business nowadays. You can get one or two question that refer to your ability of keeping sensitive information private in any interview, ranging from secretary and security guard, to programmer, CFO, or school principal.

Confidentiality and loyalty go hand in hand. Once they see that you are a loyal employee, and actually care about the well-being and success of your employer and colleagues, you will approach sensitive data with caution, and you will think twice whether you will share them with anyone else.

Try to show the right attitude in your interview. You know that there’s power in data, and that personal data can easily be abused. Therefor you will proceed cautiously with any data, and will do your best to protect them. Once you manage to make this impression on your prospective employer, you will pass the confidentiality test. But it won’t be the only one you will face in your interview

If you want to get ready for every question they may throw at you, and ensure that you will get the job at the end, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Up to 10 premium answers to all interview questions will help you stand out and outclass other job applicants.

Thank you for checking it out, I wish you good luck in your difficult interview!

Matthew Chulaw, Your personal job interview coach

 

May also interest you:

  • Teamwork interview questions – Teamwork is one of the foundation stones of success. HR managers will often give you a couple of questions that test your teamwork ability. Learn how to deal with the questions.
  • Behavioral interview questions – Inquiring about your past, we try to understand how you would act in your new job, while facing various challenges and tasks. Can you answer the ten tough behavioral questions?
Matthew Chulaw
Latest posts by Matthew Chulaw (see all)