Exclusive: recruiters using drones to gather intelligence on candidates

When it comes to candidate screening, recruiters are always looking for new ways to separate the wheat from the chaff. But the latest steps recruiters are taking have caused quite a stir in recent weeks, after it was reported that some are now sending drones on CIG (Candidate Intelligence Gathering) missions. In simpler terms, they are using camera-fitted drones to spy on potential candidates. 

In what has already proven to be one of the most controversial moves of 2016, millions of people have called into question the recruitment practice laws surrounding such methods. But it turns out that the commercial use of these UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) is yet to be limited under the Civil Aviation Authority. This means that recruiters are able to send their drones to your house and monitor your every move. But why?

Rise of the machines

Drones are slowly becoming commonplace in our society, more so as 'cool christmas gadgets' than anything commercially useful. The first company to even court the idea of drone-use in a business environment was an express international delivery service. But with the UK's recruitment Industry valued at over £29 billion in 2015, there is a lot of money involved when it comes to placing the perfect candidate.

That's why recruiters are finding another (far more controversial) use for these devices. Over the course of a 10 hour 'mission', they are able to find out what kind of neighbourhood you live in, how clean your car is and even what cereal you eat. The worst part is this isn't just a concept. It is happening right now.

Due to the level of costs involved at the moment, this is a 'post-interview' measure used by only a few companies. In other words, if you're lucky enough to make it to interview, you're also lucky enough to have a drone monitor you at some point in the weeks following. The companies using these methods defend drone use and proclaim it is 'a necessary step' to save the time and costs involved in second interviews and bad hires

In a bid to understand this quite blatant breach of privacy, we managed to get a statement from David Clarke - who is the brainchild of operation 'Candigate' (an industry used portmanteau of the words 'candidate' and 'investigate'):

"I honestly don't see the issue with this. We currently live in a country with over 5.5 million CCTV cameras monitoring our every move, every single day. Our proposition is to monitor specific people, over a limited period, for the benefit of matching them with their perfect employers."

Mr. Clarke went on to cite operation Candigate as the 'natural step forward' from social media recruitment. But, unlike our Facebook profiles, we can't make our lives totally private and the idea of these drones following us around is proving to be a scary thought for many.

The dark side of the drone

This entire 'big brother' process of candidate spying was first brought to the nation's attention after a candidate reported losing out on his dream job for the most pathetic reason. Matthew, 35 from Leeds, was buoyant after an interview went seemingly well with a large automotive employer. He was confident of a second interview and went home full of excitement.

Over the course of a 10 hour 'mission', they are able to find out what kind of neighbourhood you live in, how clean your car is and even what cereal you eat.

However, after a week of radio silence, Matthew received an email highlighting the most unusual cause for rejection we've ever heard. It wasn't the lack of experience, nor the colour of his tie that stopped him from landing the job. Oh no. It was the state of his garden. The employer, who will remain anonymous for legal reasons, proclaimed that his 'unkempt hedges and poorly pruned flower bed signified a dis-organised personality which wasn't suitable for a role that requires meticulous attention to detail.'

Still reeling from the shock of this reply, Matthew rang the employer thinking it was some kind of joke. But to his utter dismay, he discovered that they had sent a drone to spy on him in the days after the interview - where it discovered his 'untidy' garden. Such was the absurdity of this that Matthew gained nationwide attention and subsequently landed his dream job elsewhere. Although a happy ending, he proclaims that others won't be so lucky and that the idea of spying on people in such a manner is 'downright insulting'.

So is it even legal?

For the time being yes. Even though The Privacy Act of 1988 "regulates the handling of personal information about individuals. This includes the collection, use, storage and disclosure of personal information, and access to and correction of that information", there is yet to be a clamp down on the improper use of personal information garnered from UAVs.

If you're lucky enough to make it to interview, you're also lucky enough to have a drone monitor you at some point in the weeks following.

We are hopeful, in time, that laws will be adjusted to prevent such practices but until then, all job seekers are potential prey to the eyes in the skies. In our somewhat brief interview with a company currently running these drones, we received some tips on how to impress and pass the 'drone' test:

"If your car is clean, garden maintained and the recycling is put out on time, you won't have any issues. All of these day-to-day chores signify [to an employer] that you're an efficient and meticulous individual who will bring such qualities to the role advertised."

When we asked exactly how far the drones will intrude into our homelife, their answer became a little more vague:

"Look, we aren't flying these things through your windows and monitoring your television habits, but if you leave your curtains open then the drones are naturally going to probe your living room for any useful information. Interior decor and mirror placements are great indicators of personality type."

The next time you go for a job interview, just remember that one of these things might come prying on you at home - so ensure you visit the car wash and, if you have terrible wallpaper, close the blinds.

Oh and by the way, happy April Fools' Day!

(Disclaimer: the Civil Aviation Authority have got the use of drones totally under control.)

By Jon Clarke