May 18, 2015

Do You Consider Yourself an Ethical Recruiter?

Got Ethics?It’s a question as old as the industry: are you an ethical recruiter? Are there things you do that might be considered less than honest as you pursue your goals?

Josh Anderson, the director of people at Ello, addresses this very issue in an interview on Entelo’s blog. Anderson says that a lot of the problems in recruiting are driven by what he calls a “get the hire” mentality.

“‘Get the hire’ is born from the Glengarry Glen Ross-style agency ethos that many recruiters inherit at some point in their careers,” Anderson tells Entelo.

As Anderson observes, recruiting agencies tend to be commission-driven — not that there’s a problem with that — and less-than-ethical recruiters in commission-driven settings tend to focus on quantity of placements, rather than quality of placements. Is that a problem you find yourself facing in your own recruiting practice? Do you focus on placing a hire and grabbing the commission instead of the long-term benefits that a new hire could bring to a company?

A further problem is created when former agency recruiters head into the corporate world. Sometimes, they bring the “get the hire” mentality comes along with them. Anderson tells Entelo that avoiding this sort of ethical quandary requires that companies adopt fresh ways of thinking.

Yes, companies can play a role in making unethical recruiters act more ethically. Anderson told Entelo that, when he worked at SendGrid, the recruiting team wasn’t measured by quantity of Shatterhires; instead, the team was measured by the quality of hires “as demonstrated by the performance and culture fit of those hires over time.”

Unethical Behavior Damagers Your Employer Brand

Self-proclaimed “Evil HR Lady” Suzanne Lucas also tackles the issue of unethical recruiting in a blog post for Lucas notes that unethical recruiting behaviors affect not only the company doing the hiring, but also the candidates involved in the hiring process.

“Your job candidates are humans. They are making sacrifices in order to come and interview. They are spending time and, often, money to meet with you,” Lucas writes.

In other words: if you’re thinking about unethical behavior, realize it does have consequences.

Lucas shares a story she heard from a job hunter. The person had been interviewed 32 times (yikes!) over the phone and in-person for an overseas management job with an American company. The candidate took a total of eight days off from work for interviews at the company’s domestic headquarters and the job site in South America. The job hunter tells Lucas he received zero feedback from the company, aside from a quick note that he was not hired for the position.

“Well, duh,” would have been my less than tactful response. As Lucas notes, “This is utterly ridiculous. And while this example lands on the extreme end of the spectrum, many companies think nothing of doing five, six[,] or 10 interviews with candidates and then going silent.”

Treating candidates so rudely doesn’t just hurt the candidates — it damages the company’s reputation. Thanks to the accessibility of social media, the company now faces the online wrath of unhappy candidates. For example, the job hunter in this specific instance tells Lucas he will never consider another position with this company (he would be crazy to) and that he is “now inclined to … warn friends (in a narrow field) away from them.”

Is Poaching Ethical?

SawLet’s circle back to Anderson’s interview with Entelo. Anderson also brings up the topic of “poaching” candidates from specific companies. To be honest, we all know poaching isn a big part of recruiting. But is it ethical to target specific companies when trying to fill positions? Anderson suggests it is not, because specifically targeting companies for poaching increases competition between the poaching company and the poached company. These companies could actively start targeting on another’s employees, potentially weakening both organizations.

Of course, you also have to avoid making pacts with other companies not to poach employees. Anderson notes that Pixar, Lucasfilm, Apple, and Google have been sued for having such agreements. Companies that enter into those pacts can cause long-term economic damage to the candidates who aren’t hired simply because of whom their employer are.

Read more in Workplace Ethics

Keith Griffin is an award-winning business writer and editor with more than 30 years experience as a journalist. His work has been published in The Boston Globe, Medical Economist, Good Housekeeping,, the Hartford Courant, CT Law Tribune and numerous other regional publications.
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