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Job Search Ethics

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A number of articles on this site have addressed the polar opposites of the job seeker and the recruiter. Both are individuals and both have a system of ethics that is based on their personal perspectives as well as sharing a common perspective of the world in which they live. It is very easy to pigeonhole these topics into dual ethical perspectives when the answer to resolving the conflict is to operate from the same moral foundation. Former President Bill Clinton spoke about such conflict. “When times are tough…the politics of constant conflict may be good, but what is good politics does not necessarily work in the real world. What works in the real world is cooperation.” The following is a combination of articles from both perspectives edited for the series on professional ethics.

There is no better laboratory to study human nature than a situation in which one person is in need and another person holds the key to fulfilling that need. Some examples that immediately come to mind are that of a parent and child, a teacher and pupil, or a doctor and patient. It is not a stretch of this concept to suggest that the relationship between a recruiter and candidate is similar. While there will be variables to this analogy the person in the recruiter or recruiter surrogate position will often assume a psychologically superior role (Parent) to the dependent personality (Child). Without repeating the Psych 101 textbook problems associated with this TA model, this can be a disastrous way for grown-ups to communicate effectively. The goal to making communications become more effective is for the conversation to evolve into an Adult to Adult dialog with neither party taking a superior role. On that basis it is safe to say that the most effective form of communication is when each person understands the other person’s moral perspective. To plagiarize from an adage attributed to an old Native American saying you can better understand others if you walk a mile in their moccasins.

  • From the recruiter perspective – Society is loaded with bias stemming from ethical differences that causes discrimination against individuals by race, gender, ethnicity, age, and sexual orientation. There is an excellent opportunity in this relationship with job seekers to level the playing field… or conversely to perpetuate the problem by missing that opportunity. Generational differences can be the most insidious form of discrimination with the interviewer/interviewee dialog failing to really touch either party because of preconceived notions about age related ideas. Organizational fit is important, but diversity of thought produces better results unless the job specs calls for a clone. There is also an internal conflict of juggling priorities with routine administrivia often taking precedent over human interactions. If there is no time for fairness or feedback something is dangerously wrong in the ethical mix.
  • From the job seeker perspective – It doesn’t require rocket science to know that doing meaningful work is at the top of everybody’s list. People need to feel productive and that they are not only using their acquired skills but also growing and learning new ones. Compensation and benefits are other things that always rank highly among the necessary requirements for work. Beyond basic needs of providing for themselves and their families, rightly or wrongly money is often seen to be the measure of worth of an individual. Job seekers also want to be able to feel pride in what they do. Working with a good company with a good culture and good coworkers is a mix that often cannot be expressed clearly. They may not be able to describe this dream company in words, but they will know it when they see it… or know that it is a wrong fit. The perception of bad ethics on the other side stems from a society that has trained us to demand instant gratification to our needs regardless of whether our complaints are justified or not.

This only scratches the surface of a complex interpersonal drama that has been discussed over and over. The common ethical base comes into conflict because of a lack of understanding of the other person’s moral foundation or disrespect for it. Recruiters need to think like job seekers and job seekers need to think like recruiters. This may not solve the problem, but it will go a long way to satisfying unrealistic expectations.

Image credit: dragon_fang / 123RF Stock Photo



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