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Concerned about Employee Monitoring Software? How to Ask about It in a Job Interview

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In today’s digital work-from-home world, as many as 60% of companies with remote employees use employee monitoring software to track employees’ activities during work hours. While this may be insightful for the company, it also raises concerns for jobseekers who value their privacy and autonomy. 

If you’re a jobseeker who wants to know more about employee monitoring software before accepting a job offer, keep reading for tips on how to ask about it during an interview.

What is employee monitoring software? 

Employee monitoring software (EMS) is software used to keep track of when and how employees work. It essentially monitors productivity and collects data through employees’ tech devices. From supervising performance to intercepting illegal activities, employers use EMS for a number of reasons.

The software may track:

  • Time 
  • Activity
  • Project management 
  • Email 

Generally, if you’re on the clock, an employer has full discretion to make the rules. Employers do need to inform employees they maintain the right to monitor behavior. But they don’t need to be specific about the info they are obtaining or what they are using to get it.  

And in case you were wondering: yes, employee monitoring software is legal. An employer using it might even notify employees and get their consent. 

New data regulation laws

In July 2023, New York City will release a new AI law requiring employers to inform candidates of any personal data collected during hiring and promotions. Oher locations inlcuding California, Washington DC, and Vermont are in the process of enacting similar AI-related laws. 

New York’s AI law has received some mixed feedback from public advocates. Even tech leaders such as Google’s Sundar Pichai and Microsoft’s Brad Smith are calling for more oversight into AI algorithms at the national level. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also recently warned employers that they’re responsible for any AI-generated discrimination. 

So, what are some graceful ways during the interview process to go about discovering if a company uses employee monitoring software? 

1. Research the company’s policy beforehand

Before going into the interview, do some research on the company’s policy on employee monitoring software. Check the company’s website or LinkedIn page for any information on their policy. You can also reach out to current or former employees of the company to get an idea of how the company uses monitoring software. In this instance, Glassdoor or Blind might provide relevant information.

2. Ask about the company’s policy during the interview

We wouldn’t recommend asking this immediately, of course. Determine how critical an issue this is for you and gauge the pros and cons along with the rapport you’ve created with the interviewer. 

If you feel it’s necessary to your feelings about the role, you could ask the interviewer about the company’s policy on employee monitoring software. You can phrase your question as follows: “Can you tell me more about the company’s policy on employee monitoring software? How does the company use it, and what kind of data does it collect?”

Tone is important here. Be curious, and upbeat, to keep the conversation friendly but professional. 

3. Ask about the reasons behind using the software

It’s important to understand why the company is using employee monitoring software. Ask the interviewer why the company feels the need to use it and what benefits it provides. You can also ask about any specific incidents that led the company to start using the software.

4. Ask about how the software is used and who has access to the data

It’s important to know how the software is used and who has access to the data it collects. Ask the interviewer about how the software is used on a day-to-day basis and who has access to the data it collects. You can also ask about the security measures the company has in place to protect the data.

5. Express your concerns and ask for clarification

If you have any concerns about the company’s policy on employee monitoring software, express them to the interviewer and ask for clarification. For example, if you’re concerned about your privacy, ask about how the company protects your personal data. 

If you’re concerned about being micromanaged, ask about how the company balances monitoring with trust. 

For example, you might say: “Trust is a key value for me. How do you demonstrate trust with employees? Does the company have specific rules around being online at certain times or not using company property for private emails outside of work hours?”

How can I protect my privacy? 

Keep your work life and personal life separate. Assume what you do with company property is not private. This includes devices and programs (email, Slack, Zoom, etc.) you use through work.  

When is the most appropriate time to ask?

The simple answer is: the sooner the better. If EM software is a dealbreaker for you, don’t let time pass in the process without inquiring.

Is a company using employee monitoring software right for me?

Based on the information you get from any questions asked in an interview, how does that company compare to others? Determine what it is you’re looking for in the answers to understand if the company and role are right for you. 

Concerned about employee monitoring software? Be proactive.

As we continue to navigate an increasingly digital landscape, it’s important for both employers and employees to understand the nuances and implications of technology like employee monitoring software. Consider your own comfort and needs as a jobseeker regarding privacy and autonomy at work. Be proactive and ask questions if you have concerns. 

If you’re a jobeeker on Hired, the Candidate Experience Team is there to help you throughout your search. The team is available to coach jobseekers through the hiring process and even support them if the need to ask tough or awkward questions arises. 

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