The Essence of Ethics ~ April, 2009
Late at night…no one around for miles – and yet you stop at the red light and wait. Why? You stop because it’s the ethical thing to do. We trust each other to stop, whether or not anyone is watching. You could say that trust is the outcome of ethical behavior.
It’s difficult to define, exactly, what ethical behavior is; and it’s impossible to measure. But we can sense when ethics are present in an individual or a company culture – and especially we sense it when they’re not. Ethical behavior is a two-way street. Companies and customers cannot effectively engage unless there is trust between them. And, to my point in this article, neither can companies and candidates.
In recruiting, where much of the interaction is often between just two people, a recruiter and a candidate, it’s incumbent on both parties to act with the highest ethical standards. If misrepresentations are made on either side and a wrong hire results, the impact in dollars and emotions is high – and entirely avoidable.
Put Simply: don’t lie
If ethics were black and white it would be simpler for all of us. Instead, they are nebulous and subject to personal interpretation – and that’s why we sometimes get into trouble. As author and HR strategist Kevin Wheeler says, “Ethics define our moral rights and duties, and involve a commitment to doing the right thing.” However, a “commitment” can be a long way from the actually “doing” what we know is right.
In our no-time-to-waste competitive business environment it’s tempting to do what seems simplest, fastest and easiest, instead of taking a moment to consider what is right. In the rush to succeed, some even believe that taking time to do the right thing may put them at a competitive disadvantage. In the long term the opposite is true: high ethical standards enhance reputations and build successful brands that draw people and business to you.
Both recruiters and candidates could benefit from a set of guidelines for ethical behavior. This would prevent slippage into rationalizations and justifications that often lead to unethical actions. Ethics for employers and candidates begin with a simple principle: don’t lie. Everyone wins when both company and candidate are open and honest about their histories, goals and expectations. Honesty should be a stated cultural value and modeled throughout every organization, including the recruiting process.
Ethical guidelines for recruiters
Even though a company may post written recruiting guidelines that help ensure a thorough and fair hiring process, the personal and business ethics of individual recruiters inevitably come into play in the decision making process. What should you say about a company’s poor financial performance? Should you mention the company’s high turnover rate? Should you enlarge the responsibilities or authority of a particular position to get the candidate you want? The questions asked of candidates and the information revealed about the company have much to do with the ethical behaviors that are valued and promoted within a company’s culture. Following are suggestions that will help recruiters set guidelines to help ensure ethical behavior throughout the process:
Ethical guidelines for candidates
Candidates should keep in mind that ethical behavior will not only help get you the best position for yourself, but it protects your reputation as well. As much as people move around, if you misrepresent yourself in the market or act in other unethical ways, the word will get around and limit your opportunities. Following are things candidates can do to ensure their own ethical behavior and a positive impression to recruiters:
Keeping the end goal in mind
The goal of recruiting is to find highly qualified talent that fits your culture and accelerates or enhances your business growth. The goal of the candidate is similar: it’s to land the right position with an organization that matches your talents, fits with your character and personality, and provides opportunities to grow. Achieving these goals is possible only if both parties operate ethically, even when on one is watching. You have to live the results.