Executives are often surprised to discover how many ethical dimensions exist in recruiting, probably because selection is typically viewed as a practical, rather than philosophical, decision-support system. Our experience has demonstrated that personal and corporate ethics influence not only who is selected, but how jobs are defined and who becomes a candidate.
In the pages that follow, we will explore the implications of those (often subtle) ethical issues that impact every employment decision. We will highlight our belief that there is a moral imperative attached to the recruitment and selection process which can be stated as arriving at a decision which -- within the constraints of time, economics and the law -places the future of the candidate and that of the employer in the least possible jeopardy. It is epitomized by choosing a candidate who will be challenged while succeeding and who contributes to the organization's goal attainment by adding uniquely to its fabric of talents. Making an ethical personnel selection involves gathering and carefully analyzing all relevant data so that the decision is wisely drawn, balancing the short and long-term benefits -- as well as the liabilities -- which could accrue to the organization and the individual. To achieve such an optimal result requires thoughtful vigilance throughout the planning, sourcing, interviewing and referencing process.
INHERENT ETHICAL PROBLEMS
A variety of ethical dilemmas are inherent in every recruitment or selection decision. Others are unique to the relationship between an executive recruiter and his or her client. We will explore these issues with the belief that striving to act in the most ethical manner will best serve the organization and the individual and will result in sound management decisions as a natural by-product. The first section discusses those ethical issues which affect all recruiting and selection situations -- without regard to whether candidates are internally or externally generated. The second section will evaluate the ethics of recruiter/client relationships.
The Starting Point
Ethical behavior begins with the definition of position requirements. If it is unethical to place someone in a role where they will fail, thereby harming their career or jeopardizing the results of the organization, failing to adequately define the job and its requirements can be a breach of ethical behavior. If the requirements for success and the expectations for performance have been inadequately analyzed, the chances for an improper selection decision and moral injustice are heightened. This reinforces the practical concern recruiters have for thorough review of position requirements, credential parameters, organizational climate and its effect on the participants.
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From a moral perspective, defining relevant experience is critical. Unnecessarily stringent requirements -- which exclude otherwise qualified individuals -- are clearly as defective on an ethical basis as those that are too broad or unspecific. Such unrealistic experience requirements were responsible for much of the federal legislation that now requires cumbersome statistical reporting of hiring practices.
Regardless of the method used to generate candidates -- through advertising, direct sourcing, or other means -- ethical boundaries clearly exist, particularly in how the organization and position are presented to the prospect. Any misrepresentation of the scope, difficulty, reward structure or other key elements is unfair and will tend to protract the recruiting process. Candidates will withdraw when they sense an untruth, or become turnover statistics if the misrepresentations become known after employment. If an employer is using the direct sourcing process, there are...