How to describe experience in handling confidential information

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 15 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When you apply for a job that involves the management of sensitive information, hiring managers are going to ask about your experience with confidentiality. It's important to show in your job application that you understand the magnitude of confidentiality and have the relevant skills to handle sensitive data. When it comes to interviews, hiring managers may ask you specific questions about confidentiality to further understand your experience. In this article, we explain how to demonstrate your experience in handling confidential information in your CV, cover letter and interview.

Why is handling confidential information important?

Handling confidential information is an important skill in the modern workplace. Failure to secure and protect confidential data not only leads to the loss of clients due to a lack of trust, but also puts these people at risk of having their data stolen, which can be costly for both the individual and business. In certain professions, like healthcare, law and education, interviewers are going to ask why confidentiality matters to you, so make sure you're ready to share your reasons.

Related: How to successfully answer confidentiality interview questions

How to describe experience in handling confidential information

If you're applying for a new job that involves sensitive data, below is an explanation of how to describe your experience in this area:

1. Explain the importance of confidentiality

First, outline why confidentiality is important in your role by discussing the types of sensitive data you handle regularly and why it's important to keep it confidential. This demonstrates your understanding of your industry, the key responsibilities of your job and your integrity. For example, if you work as a medical receptionist, you might mention how protecting patient health records is essential for building trust with patients but also a legal obligation for healthcare practices.

Related: What does a medical receptionist do? (Including salary)

2. Describe the actions you take to protect confidential information

Next, describe the practical things you do to maintain confidentiality in the workplace. This might include industry best practices in addition to your own personal methods. This allows the hiring manager to understand if your practices align with the company policies about confidential information. For example, someone in a medical receptionist role might describe never leaving a screen unattended with patients' records open, never sharing passwords and lowering your voice when having discussions with patients in reception areas.

3. Review the outcome of your actions

Describing the outcome of your actions lets the hiring manager understand whether or not you're capable of improving or supporting their organisation if you get the job. It's an opportunity to show that you understand and support the values of goals of your employer. For example, you might describe outcomes such as building patient trust and limiting liability concerns.

Describing confidentiality experience on a CV

If you're applying for a role that involves confidential information, make it clear in your CV that the data you've managed in previous roles is sensitive. The ideal CV is no longer than two sides of A4, so don't take too much space describing the confidentiality practices you utilised in detail. Instead, concentrate on the duties of the role with specific references to confidential information.

Example:

Good Health Medical Practice, Leeds - Receptionist - May 2018 to present

  • Scheduled patient appointments using a password-protected computer system to access confidential patient notes.

  • Greeted patients at reception to provide the positive first impression of the practice.

  • Handled sensitive patient queries over the phone and face to face.

Describing confidentiality experience in a cover letter

You might decide to mention managing confidential information in your cover letter if you think it's particularly important to highlight it. Cover letters are relatively short and succinct, so don't spend too many words explaining the practical actions you take in your current role to protect the confidentiality and focus instead on the value of confidentiality.

Example: As you can see from my CV, I work as a medical receptionist and have previously worked as an administrator at a high school. Therefore, I have extensive experience in handling confidential information and understand the importance of maintaining confidentiality to abide by data-protection laws, build patient trust and keep patients safe.

Related: What is the importance of confidentiality? (With examples)

Describing confidentiality experience in interviews

When responding to questions about confidentiality in an interview, use the three steps outlined above to clarify the importance of confidentiality in your current or past roles, the actions you take to protect confidential information and the outcomes. Responses vary depending on the nature of your job and the industry you work in. Here are some example answers to the question 'how do you handle confidential information?' for a range of industries:

Example 1: healthcare

'Avoiding the sharing of personal medical information is paramount to my role as a nurse, not only for giving patients confidence and trust in me as a healthcare professional but for upholding DPA regulations. I never access patient records in the presence of unauthorised employees or members of the public. When family members play a role in the care of a patient, I confirm that the patient consents to the sharing of their personal data before discussing medical information. When discussing patient data with colleagues, I take care to discuss only the most relevant information for administering care.'

Related: Medical receptionist interview questions with sample answers

Example 2: education

'It's important in my role as a teacher to provide an environment that is safe for students, and maintaining confidentiality is an essential part of this. I manage student records carefully to ensure unapproved parties do not access grades, reports and personal data. When someone requests student information, I verify their identity and right to the information before sharing. I also take care to balance student privacy with safeguarding requirements and make sure students understand when I am obligated to share their private information with others in the interests of keeping them safe.'

Example 3: finance

'In my role as a financial advisor, it is essential that I protect the financial information of my clients to prevent misuse and support their personal privacy. I use secure, encrypted platforms to access financial details and never access client records outside of these platforms or on devices that my employer has not approved. When I finish using financial records and no longer require them, I destroy them appropriately and never hold onto data that is not absolutely essential for current projects and clients.'

Example 4: law

'As a lawyer, withholding confidentiality is essential for building trust with clients and protecting their legal interests. The concept of confidentiality is something, I discuss with every new client at our first meeting to ensure they understand which aspects of their personal information I'm able to protect. I only share information with other parties after seeking clear approval from a client. I also keep associations with clients private to withhold their privacy unless they require public representation.'

Example 5: security

'As a home security engineer, it's vital that I keep clients' data private to protect their property and security systems against breaches. I uphold a series of identification protocols whenever I take calls from clients about their security systems to ensure I do not share private data with unauthorised individuals. When accessing security systems via the back-end, I follow strict cybersecurity protocols to protect customer information against security breaches.'

Example 6: HR

'It's important for employees to trust HR professionals to operate in their best interests. By protecting confidential information, I build trust with them. I handle a large volume of personal data every day, including contact information, payroll data, salaries, medical histories and performance reviews and much of this is accessible via computers. I make sure to log out before stepping away from my screen and never access personal data in the presence of unauthorised personnel. I never share employee data with colleagues without verifying the identity of the person requesting it and checking that the reasons for sharing are valid.'

Example 7: science and research

'As an electronics engineer, I work on the development of new, cutting-edge technologies on a daily basis. It's vital that we avoid data leaks that could inhibit our competitiveness. I do not share research or data with parties outside of my organisation unless senior team members authorise it. I do not share passwords or leave computers or devices logged in when I am not attending to them. I respect non-disclosure agreements relevant to the projects and stakeholders I work with and do not discuss the specifics of my work in my personal life.'

Related: What is electronics engineering?

Example 8: hospitality

'As a hotel desk clerk, I handle the personal and financial data of guests on a daily basis and it's vital that I protect it for their safety. I follow a series of protocols related to confidentiality, such as checking the identity of guests before issuing spare key cards or relaying room numbers, turning away when guests input credit card PINs and speaking softly when discussing itemised bills. I do not leave the desk unattended when personal guest data is visible. I also take care to give appropriate information to guests regarding the hotel's privacy policy.'

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