When asked during a job interview, confidentiality interview questions are asked to measure candidates’ confidentiality skills. The hiring manager needs to know that any new employees have good confidentiality skills and can protect proprietary data and customer and employee information.
Here are 25 common confidentiality-related questions and sample answers that show you are the ideal candidate.
5 Tips for Your Answer
- When asked about using discretion, always reference industry confidentiality standards.
- Always answer behavioral interview questions using the STAR method and an example from a similar situation.
- Never criticize past employers to your prospective employer.
- Always say that you would report illegal activity to the legal department and appropriate authority.
5 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Answer
- Unless asked specifically for an example, don’t provide examples of ever breaching confidentiality.
- Don’t disclose any secret information or details of confidential issues from a previous job in your examples.
- Don’t show disregard for the principle of confidentiality.
- Don’t be casual in your answers or manners. Maintain a high level of professionalism.
- Don’t defer to personal judgment when discussing hypothetical scenarios about the transfer of confidential data or private information.
25 Best Examples for Answering Confidentiality Interview Questions
1. What is your understanding of the term “confidential information”?
Important Points to Address: Each company may have a slightly different definition of confidentiality. Like in this example answer, you should contrast confidential information with what is public knowledge.
Confidential information refers to any private company data, employees’ personal data, customer records, or other types of information that are not public knowledge. Essentially, if it is not a matter of public reference, for instance, on the company’s website, it should be treated with strict confidentiality.
2. What practices do you use to maintain confidentiality at work?
Important Points to Address: Explain what steps you take to keep digital, physical, and audible information private.
I never discuss work matters outside of work, and I never discuss sensitive business with any team member who is not permitted to know. I also do not have private phone calls or view sensitive computer files unless I am in a secure location. Finally, I maintain separate passwords for all digital storage systems, I lock my computer whenever I stand up from my seat, and I keep physical files in locked storage when not actively in use.
3. How do you protect customer privacy?
Important Points to Address: Refer to company and industry privacy policies and customer verification.
The first thing I do to protect customers’ personal details is that I never discuss records with anyone unauthorized. When disclosing information to a customer, representative, or a third party, I adhere strictly to company identity verification and disclosure policies. Finally, send sensitive data in the most appropriate way as per the company communication and security policies.
4. Would you ever deny a customer’s request for their own information due to confidentiality?
Important Points to Address: Explain when and why you would deny a customer access to their account.
Yes, protecting personal information is important. If the customer could not verify themselves, I would use interpersonal skills to politely explain that I am denying their request to protect their information until I am sure that I am only giving their data to an authorized person.
5. Would you ever share sensitive information with a work colleague to make their job quicker or easier?
Important Points to Address: While you want to show good teamwork, you should never breach privacy to help a colleague.
I would never share information with a colleague that they were not authorized to know. If I believed they needed to know something that was controlled, I would notify my manager of the situation and obtain written consent to share the data through secure means.
6. What would you do if you discovered a colleague was breaching trust or confidentiality at the company?
Important Points to Address: Your answer should show strong work ethics and a willingness to put the company’s security first.
If I found out that a colleague was disclosing protected information internally or externally, I would report it immediately to their manager. If the breach was serious, I would also report the matter to the company’s legal department and any authorities or law enforcement as required by law.
7. Would you ever accept a gift from a client?
Important Points to Address: That you would always declare any gift, no matter how small.
If a customer offered me a token gift, I would accept it and declare it as required. If I was offered a substantial gift, I would decline it, and I’d direct them to offer the gift to the company directly. If I believed it was intended as a bribe, I would immediately report it internally and, if necessary, to law enforcement.
8. Do you have past experience dealing with confidential or sensitive information?
Important Points to Address: Always answer “yes” to this. You will have encountered private information in your previous work experience.
Yes, in a previous job, I worked in a customer-facing position and took customer payments. I knew the names and addresses of many customers and had access to their financial information. I never talked to friends, family, or other staff about whom I had served or what they had purchased, as this was confidential information.
9. If a senior manager shared confidential information with you, what would you do if another same-level executive asked you about it?
Important Points to Address: A key element of confidentiality is that unless you are authorized to, you should never share information.
No, unless I was told by the first manager specifically whom I could discuss the matter, I would not. Even if the second manager appeared to already know the general details of the information, in any such situation, I would seek written approval from the first manager.
10. Are you familiar with and can you provide any examples of HIPAA regulations?
Important Points to Address: Especially in HR roles, HIPAA will probably be asked about. You need to show an understanding of the purpose of the regulations.
Yes, HIPAA refers to the health insurance portability and accountability act. It is the set of standards for how to handle, store and transmit personally identifiable health information. It also covers how individuals can access and manage their data.
11. How do you use discretion when determining what information is public and what information is private?
Important Points to Address: Confidentiality questions will sometimes ask about discretion or judgment, but it is important to always refer to standards and policy instead.
I think the most important thing in maintaining confidentiality is not to rely on discretion. The company has policies and procedures in place, and federal, and state privacy regulations can also apply. If in doubt, I consider if the information is something that can be publicly accessed. If not, it is confidential.
12. What would you say if a close friend asked you about products or services that were not yet public knowledge?
Important Points to Address: Say that your personal loyalty to friends and members of your family would never be a good reason to disclose proprietary information.
I would never discuss company matters in my personal life. This also means that if friends or family asked me about the company, our products, or our services, I would direct them to our official information channels.
13. Are you willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement, and what is your understanding of a confidentiality agreement?
Important Points to Address: You should only answer yes to this question if you are willing and able to keep company secrets in confidence.
Yes, I would be willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement if successful. I understand that the confidentiality agreement will state what matters I can and can’t disclose privately and may agree to disciplinary and corrective actions if I breach the agreement.
14. What would you do if a caller asked you for the name or position of a manager or senior officer who doesn’t ordinarily take customer inquiries?
Important Points to Address: Most companies don’t provide staff names or positions publicly.
I had this frequently in my last job, and I would always adhere to company policy. We would take the caller’s name, phone number, and the purpose of the call to arrange a callback. This filtered real callers from scammers and phishing attacks, and false callers rarely left a number.
15. How would you respond if you were aware of a sexual harassment event?
Important Points to Address: Harassment is usually determined by how it is received. Unwanted interactions should be reported.
If I saw sexual harassment occur, I would discuss it with the victim in a delicate way to check if it was harassment. I would encourage them to report it and offer to be named as a witness. If they did not report it, I would report the perpetrator following policy.
16. What would you do if you were accidentally included in a confidential email chain?
Important Points to Address: Highlight that you would still maintain confidentiality and correct the matter quickly.
In a previous job, I was once sent the company payroll details, including the list of Christmas bonuses. When I realized what the email was, I notified payroll so they could recall the email, and I deleted the copy from my inbox. I also kept everything I had seen to myself as it was privileged knowledge.
17. How would you recommend the company stores infrequently accessed confidential customer records such as medical records?
Important Points to Address: The interviewer is trying to see if you understand that long-term storage is different from short-term storage.
Physical records should be stored in a locked room with limited access, or an even better way would be with an external document storage company, as the importance of secure storage cannot be overstated. For digital documents, special encryption software is available, and document management systems can be used. In particular, the storage of medical records needs to be following HIPAA regulations.
18. If you were attending job fairs and you thought you could win a new client by disclosing confidential details about new products, what would you tell them?
Important Points to Address: There is never a “good reason” to disclose trade secrets.
If I knew an upcoming product would meet a customer’s needs, I still wouldn’t provide any such information. I would tell them our new product sounds like it will be a great match for their needs and ask to take their details so that I can notify them as soon as our solution is launched.
19. How would you protect sensitive documents you were working on in the event of a building evacuation?
Important Points to Address: Explain that you would quickly make sure everything was in a secure place and then leave the building.
Any confidential physical documents I was working on or portable media with sensitive information I would store in a safe place such as a lockable filing cabinet. Next, I would lock my computer desktop so that my digital information would be secure. I would quickly check my desk for sensitive documents and then collect my personal valuables and credentials and leave the building.
20. How do you share confidential documents internally in the company?
Important Points to Address: State that you always use secure storage and transmission and access control.
In my current job, all secure documents are managed through an encrypted document management system. This takes care of version control as well as viewing permissions. When sharing a document, we share the link to the storage location. If the other person has insufficient access, they still won’t be able to view the document even if they have the link.
21. Have you ever, or what would you do if you breached customer privacy?
Important Points to Address: Use the STAR method if providing a real example to make it clear how the event unfolded.
In my last job, I dealt with a customer on the phone and talked about general information. They had given me most of the information I needed to verify their identity already. When they asked a specific question, I answered them without completing the final security question.
I immediately asked them to finish verifying their identity, apologized for the disclosure, and then created an internal incident report that was sent to my manager with details of the event. The customer was able to verify themselves, and no private information was improperly released.
22. What would you do if a competitor approached you and offered to buy company secrets?
Important Points to Address: You should never ever consider selling company secrets.
Company data and trade secrets can be very valuable information to competitors. It is also very valuable to the company, and releasing it would damage the company and may breach regulations or laws. I would never sell information, and if offered, I would report it immediately to my supervisor and the legal team.
23. Can you provide an example of a time that you were the target of a phishing attack at work? What did you do?
Important Points to Address: Explain how you check for and avoid phishing attacks and scams at work.
I once received a convincing email that claimed to be from HR and asked us to log into a new program with our old credentials. The email looked right, but I wasn’t aware of any new HR upgrades, so I checked the sender. I saw the address was fake and so I forwarded the email to our cyber security team and my manager immediately so they could notify the whole company.
24. What are the ways that employees can accidentally breach confidentiality?
Important Points to Address: Not all confidentiality breaches are deliberate. Staff can accidentally breach security in many ways.
There are several ways staff breach privacy by accident. For example, talking on the phone or working on a computer in an insecure location. Repeating details such as a customer’s ID number or credit card details while on the phone can also be a breach. Talking with other staff in person in a communal or public place can also allow others to overhear secretive information.
25. How is information integrity different from confidentiality and privacy?
Important Points to Address: Information integrity is about accuracy, whereas confidentiality is about protecting access.
Information integrity is about the quality and accuracy of the information. It’s about making sure data remains intact, accurate, and legible. Confidentiality and privacy refer to keeping the detail of the information a secret from sources who do not need to or are not authorized to know.
The best way to be ready for confidentiality interview questions is to always answer by referring to policy, procedure, or regulation. It is usually obvious in a job description what kind of company information you will have access to, and you should practice giving good answers if you expect these questions to come up.
Keith Miller has over 25 years of experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.