‘Will the real Slim Shady please stand up’

“May I have your attention please. May I have your attention please.” (The Real Slim Shady – Eminem)


On March 12, 2014 the Australian Privacy Principles replaced both the National and Information Privacy Principles. Most people I know, are not aware of this, and it was only brought to my attention via @BradleyBirchall of #SeeraCloud.

“So, how does this impact me?” you might be saying to yourself.

It won’t take long to discover the Australian Privacy Principal #2 – Anonymity and Pseudonymity. Uh Oh… what’s this all about then? The technical jargon reads as follows:

2.1 Individuals must have the option of not identifying themselves, or of using a pseudonym, when dealing with an APP entity in relation to a particular matter.

2.2 Subclause 2.1 does not apply if, in relation to that matter:
a. the APP entity is required or authorised by or under an Australian law, or a court/tribunal order, to deal with individuals who have identified themselves; or
b. it is impracticable for the APP entity to deal with individuals who have not identified themselves or who have used a pseudonym.

You have to love the use of ‘impracticable’ in this clause. Still don’t know where I am going with this, or what this means for the recruitment process?

Well here’s a scenario that could play out in an application near you:

You have advertised a role for a Business Systems Advisor. The applications begin to flood in via the many sourcing strategies with which you have deployed (because you are the Norman Schwarzkopf of recruitment). Screening the applications you see a resume for Sam Vinny (fictitious applicant). Sam’s resume is right on the money and you give her (giving diversity a chance here) a call. You’ve fallen in love, the phone screen goes something along the lines of hitting the lotto jackpot. (now you’re bragging to your team mates about this gold applicant that you have just spoken with).

You invite Sam in to interview with the hiring manager. The interview goes extremely well. Whilst Sam is there, you request some ID and she provides you with a passport or drivers licence only to reveal that Sam, isn’t really Sam. Sam is actually Samarikuvaya Vinodkarma (fictitious applicant).

***************** Thinking about that for a minute *********************

According to Principal 2 – Samarikuvaya has the right to use a pseudonym. It was only at the time of collecting relevant information such as a Drivers licence that her real identity was revealed.

“Ah yeah, that’s an easy one” you might be saying. Just get a form of ID upfront. This then leads to potential discrimination, because it could be argued that you are making a decision based on someones name, ethnicity, culture and not their experience, abilities and capabilities.

So how do you, and your hiring manager now view Sam? Whilst Sam has acted in accordance with her right to privacy, has she now breached your trust? Would you have phone screened, interviewed Sam had she used her own name?

WHAT IF SAM APPLIED ANONYMOUSLY? Used the name Jane Doe…..again, her right to do so under Principal #2. Do you make a call to potentially miss out on a great applicant because they refused to provide their real name upfront?

Is it impracticable? The same term used here in Australia when negotiating round-a bouts..to indicate or not to indicate… the vote is split, and I believe will also be split on this one.

wormsSo what measures can you deploy?

For those roles which require certain licences to operate, you could request copies of these to be submitted as part of the application process.

What about asking for qualifications? You could do that, but the applicant could black out their name!

Based on my interpretation of all this, the only time a applicant actually needs to provide relevant personal details would be at a point in the process where you were undertaking due diligence (references, medicals, police clearance, residency/visa checks etc).

Imagine one day opening up one of your requisitions and seeing 5 John Does and 8 Jane Does having applied for your role!!!!!! Won’t that make merging applicants all that more fun… oh that’s if your ATS allows for merging!

I suggest you pull out your now defunct privacy policies, sit down with your General Counsel if you are lucky to have one or find someone who can better articulate this principal and translate it into a new policy.

That’s it for now…




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