Will it be Disclosure or Fabrication of Personal Information?: An Examination of Persuasion Strategies on Prospective Employees

Will it be Disclosure or Fabrication of Personal Information?: An Examination of Persuasion Strategies on Prospective Employees

Xun Li (Nicholls State University, USA) and Radhika Santhanam (University of Kentucky, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-000-5.ch016
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Individuals are increasingly reluctant to disclose personal data and sometimes even intentionally fabricate information to avoid the risk of having it compromised. In this context, organizations face an acute dilemma: they must obtain accurate job applicant information in order to make good hiring decisions, but potential employees may be reluctant to provide accurate information because they fear it could be used for other purposes. Building on theoretical foundations from social cognition and persuasion theory, we propose that, depending on levels of privacy concerns, organizations could use appropriate strategies to persuade job applicants to provide accurate information. We conducted a laboratory experiment to examine the effects of two different persuasion strategies on prospective employees’ willingness to disclose information, measured as their intentions to disclose or falsify information. Our results show support for our suggestion As part of this study, we propose the term information sensitivity to identify the types of personal information that potential employees are most reluctant to disclose.
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High-school seniors have a worry: Will their Facebook or MySpace pages count against them in college admissions? A new survey of 500 top colleges found that 10 percent of admissions officers acknowledged looking at social-networking sites to evaluate applicants. Of those colleges making use of the online information, 38 percent said that what they saw “negatively affected” their views of the applicant.

--Wall Street Journal - September 28, 2008

Business organizations and other institutions are able to use information systems (IS) to capture and store vast amounts of personal data. Consequently, the public has developed acute anxiety that personal information may be misused, disclosed to unrelated parties, and perhaps even stolen by identity thieves. In early 2000, in a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, “Americans cited loss of personal privacy as their No. 1 concern about the 21st century…” As privacy concerns have been elevated to the forefront of public discourse, organizations are faced with a difficult dilemma: job applicants are reluctant to disclose personal information and sometimes may even provide incomplete or false personal data. Empirical studies show that when people are asked to disclose personal information, they tend to provide false information if they believe their privacy is being compromised (Lwin & Williams, 2003; Fox et al. 2000). But organizations’ competitiveness depends on their ability to collect accurate information that will enable them to make critical personnel selection decisions. Therefore, organizations must devise strategies to resolve the conflict between their need for accurate personal information and individuals’ wishes to keep their information private.

Because it is partly the increased functionality of IS that has created the heightened awareness of privacy issues, IS researchers and journals are showing keen interest in addressing privacy related issues (e.g., Malhotra et al. 2004; Smith et al. 1996). Although several studies have been conducted, thus far they tend to focus on consumers’ privacy concerns; research about employees’ privacy concerns and how organizations must address those issues are relatively scarce (Greenway & Chan, 2005). Current and prospective employees have voiced their information privacy concerns in recent years, and have reported that they have been reluctant to provide accurate personal information when they seek jobs or promotions because they have been afraid that their information will be used in unrelated ways that may impact them adversely (Alge et al. 2006; Stone & Stone, 1990). This is compounded by the fact that privacy practices that protect employee privacy are not standardized across organizations, and employees do not have a clear understanding of policies in their respective organizations (Eddy et al. 1999). Furthermore, in contrast to consumers who can terminate a transaction if they fear their privacy may be compromised, job applicants and employees feel more pressured to disclose personal information to get or hold jobs. In these pressured situations, they tend to fabricate their personal information, as is the case in personality tests (Hough et al., 1990; Hough, 1998; Schmitt & Oswald, 2006). Under the assumption that collecting accurate employee information is desirable, we pose the question: How organizations assuage employees’ privacy concerns so that they will be more willing to provide accurate information.

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