Need to Hire Confidentially? Here’s How to Handle It

July 9, 2024

Confidential recruiting is a delicate business, whatever the reason for the discretion. Today, we’re offering our advice based on years of supporting clients for these highly sensitive searches. 

Recruiting is a deeply human endeavour, and there are as many reasons to recruit new employees as there are personality types. And when you do need to hire—either because of a newly created role, or a newly created vacancy—every search for a candidate is its own unique animal. 

There’s a type of recruiting that doesn’t get a lot of attention. It’s also a common reason why Argentus’s clients use us:

Confidential searches. 

As a boutique recruitment agency in procurement and supply chain, our clients often use Argentus because of our background in managing searches where confidentiality is paramount. Confidential recruiting is a tricky business. But there are some things you can do to set yourself up for success. 

So today, we want to write a post to dig into confidential recruiting: what are the business cases for it, and what strategies can you use when building a confidential search to make sure it’s successful? 

First: why would a company need to hire confidentially?

Obviously, companies will make a role confidential because they want to tap into the marketplace for talent without the role becoming public, either externally or, more commonly, internally with existing employees.

When people think about a confidential hire, a certain scenario probably comes to mind: the company is replacing an incumbent, and doesn’t want them to know. Sometimes, the candidate who’s currently in the role just isn’t working out.

This kind of confidential search does happen. But in our experience, the reasons for a confidential search are often more nuanced. 

Sometimes, the candidate is leaving the role because they’re moving on to another opportunity on their own, either within the organization or externally. In some cases, the organization is creating a new role due to a restructuring. In these cases, the business might prefer to keep the role confidential because they haven’t told the team. They don’t want to create a leadership vacuum, or the impression of a leadership vacuum. Many of these confidential searches happen because the company wants to keep business continuity, which is especially critical in a business area like Supply Chain (or manufacturing operations), or at the executive level, where small gaps in service for critical roles can represent a significant risk. 

In some cases, the reason for the confidentiality is to keep the role shielded from external eyes.

Sometimes, the company has created a new executive leadership role and wants to fill it confidentially for strategic reasons, without alerting the marketplace to a change in their business.

For example, a manufacturing company may be investing in a large new expansion, and needs a Procurement leader skilled with EPC contracting to manage the contracts for the expansion. In that case, they may not want their competitors to know the reason for the role’s creation before the expansion is public. 

Another reason is that sometimes the organization simply doesn’t want to deal with the external pressure, influence, and work of having a role be public knowledge. If you publicly post a role using an internal applicant tracking system or job board, you get more eyes on the role. But it costs you the effort of sifting through hundreds of applications that aren’t a good fit–which is even more daunting now that applying to jobs is easier than ever. Some companies prefer to be more surgical and strategic in their searches, approaching passive candidates or even incumbents at competitors confidentially, rather than trumpeting their search for a candidate. 

Most often, it’s a mix of these factors and others. 

While it’s possible to conduct a confidential search on your own, many companies choose to use a specialized recruitment partner like Argentus for these confidential searches. In a big picture sense, it’s much easier to maintain the confidentiality of a search using an external partner than internal efforts. 

When you’re conducting a confidential search on your own, every communication with an external candidate will need to be anonymous. It’s much harder to reach out without linking the communication to a company email address or LinkedIn profile. We have heard of companies using anonymous email addresses or profiles, but this isn’t spycraft: at a certain point, the measures you have to take to recruit anonymously on your own become a bit ridiculous. 

Using an external partner, on the other hand, has a few distinct advantages: 

A recruiter can be your eyes and ears in the marketplace, as a trusted partner who can identify themselves with candidates. They will keep the name of your company private in all job postings, and will only share it with a candidate either during a conversation or, if a higher level of confidentiality is required, prior to an interview. 

When approaching candidates, an external recruitment partner will be able to convey all the advantages of a role without having to identify you. They’ll act as your representative in the marketplace—a partner who can convey excitement about your company’s culture, mission and goals, all without identifying your company until the time is right. They can target passive talent at a selected list of organizations, building trust and understanding mutual fit, before disclosing which company they’re recruiting for. 

Often, a recruitment partner will have strong existing relationships with candidates that they can leverage. They’ll know top performing candidates in their specialty—for us, that’s supply chain management and procurement—who know that the recruiter will only approach them with an opportunity that’s worth exploring. If a candidate knows that a recruiter only works with top businesses, they’re more likely to listen, even if they don’t know the company name. They know how the game works, and they’re almost always game to entertain a discussion.

Using a third party recruitment partner can give you total control over managing the recruit when the situation internally is sensitive. Need to adjust the level of confidentiality? Or the role requirements? Using a recruiter will simplify the process. It makes the ship easier to steer than with a big, public-facing process. 

In a big picture sense, a recruitment partner will allow you to adopt that more strategic, surgical approach to a confidential hire. 

Stay tuned to the Argentus blog over the coming weeks for more articles on supply chain and recruitment topics. And if you have any hiring needs, either confidentially or not, reach out to Argentus today! Send an email to outlining your needs. 


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