I was curious to know how recruiters for positions in our industry saw the issue of ethics playing out from job candidates and from those seeking to hire. My thanks to Mike Gamble, Dawn Penfold and Jim Zaniello for the following responses.

I hope, in the comments here or at the blog, you will add your experiences if you’ve investigated the ethics of a potential job candidate or a company with whom you are interviewing.

A friend who just experienced what I thought was a “bait and switch” situation after three interviews was unable to find anything about the company’s ethics when it came to hiring on its website. And in talking with many, I was told job candidates almost never ask about a potential employer’s ethics policies.

Have you, when searching for a job, looked at the ethics policies or asked colleagues about the perceived ethics policies of those with whom you might work, as a supplier, employer or customer? Take our poll to tell us more.

As always, if you’d like to comment without attribution, email me at FridaywithJoan@aol.com and tell me your story. I will post without your name or identifying information.

Mike Gamble, President & CEO
SearchWide Global, St. Paul, MN
651.275.1370 (direct); 651.308.1115 (mobile)


Joan: What emphasis do your clients place on ethics [values? behaviors? reputation?] when hiring someone? 

Mike: I cannot remember the last time I had a discussion with a client about a candidate’s values. I actually wonder if many are afraid that this could be discriminatory. I know that sounds crazy, but I do wonder that.

Our industry, (perhaps like most) still puts a lot of emphasis on reputation. However, this is more about likability than overall effectiveness. If a client knows someone who knows a candidate and they “like” them, that carries a lot of weight.

The opposite is true as well; “tough but fair” is often used for difficult leaders. Different words are used for females with those same traits. The bottom line is that most do not use any “science” to really understand values, behaviors and reputation. This is typically judged by what is heard on the streets and gut instincts.

Joan: How do you and others at Searchwide suss out the ethics positions and potential behaviors when interviewing?

Mike: We ask for specific and detailed examples of situations. We ask the candidate and the references questions [that delve into this]. We are also embarking on using a new instrument that will gauge emotional intelligence. This is a very hot topic in hiring today but very hard to interview against. That is why we are going to start to implement this especially for our executive-level searches.

Dawn Penfold, President
Meetingjobs, LLC


Joan: How much emphasis do your clients put on the ethics/ethical behavior/demonstrated ethical behavior of candidates? Is it different when the job requires a CMP or other designation?

Dawn: Ethical behavior may be mentioned in a job description, but with the same emphasis as ability to work with people and strong communication skills … they are cookie-cutter add-ons that most HR people put in a job description. Again, the requirement of a CMP is another rare requirement.

A company may say CMP preferred, but rarely required. After a candidate has interviewed, I always ask, “What did they ask you?” I don’t recall any questions dealing with ethics.

Ethics, I would assume from a hiring official, is a given, or not as much of a concern as their ability to do the job feet first and fit in to the company and office culture.

Joan: In what ways do you, in pre-screening, suss out a candidate's position on ethical behaviors?

Dawn: Sad to say, I don’t ask specific questions on ethical behavior unless it is a requirement given to me by the hiring official. I have to admit, though, in this small industry we know many of those that have acted unethically, and I may be more careful in presenting those candidates.

Dawn went on to say the following in additional emails:

Let’s flip this around: I would also want to ask how many candidates ask a hiring official about their ethics policies and procedures; [provide] case scenarios, find out what their common pulse points were when it comes to ethical behavior both on a corporate policy level and department policy level. This area includes the use of miles, points, “fam” trips, gift items as well as working with suppliers.

I remember one hiring official conducting a search mentioned that the [hired person’s] bonus was based on how much they could negotiate off the final bill after the conference was over. I found, after speaking with a few people that worked [at this company], that they didn’t deal with issues on-site while they were happening to attempt to rectify the situation for the rest of the conference. Rather, they were urged to keep the problems close to the vest and then complain vehemently about them afterwards, asking for charges off the final bill.

Then, the bonus was based on what came off that final bill. I chose not to work with this client in the future. 

Hiring officials will often ask for situations, and ethics may be part of that scenario … but I have to say it is rare that I hear of an ethics question being asked.

Why? I feel when someone is hiring they are looking for that person who can do the job with as little training as possible. That is foremost in their mind. I am assuming that the client assumes the person is ethical, and then, what part of ethics are we dealing with? Work ethics (considering how they work rather than how reliable they may be when dealing with work issues)? People ethics? Financial ethics? It is a gray area to so many and one that has different measurements. Meaning, what may be unethical to one is not too another.

James (“Jim”) J. Zaniello, FASAE, President
202.210.1926 (mobile)

Joan: What emphasis do your clients place on ethics [values? behaviors? reputation?] when hiring someone?

Jim: Our clients place great emphasis on a candidate’s reputation and his or her ethics. They usually clearly define their values at the start of the search process and ask us to identify candidates who not only have the experience they’re seeking but whose values align with their own. We ask—and advise our clients to do the same—a series of questions of candidates about how they interact with their industry partners.

Joan: How do you and others at Vetted suss out the ethics positions and potential behaviors when interviewing?

Jim: As big as this industry is, it’s still pretty small. Candidates have reputations: good, bad and in between. So often we have an understanding from the market as to how candidates are perceived. Whether we do or not, however, we always ask a series of questions about the candidates and how they handle difficult situations in particular. Separately, at the reference stage, we ask for a wide range of colleagues, hospitality partners and supervisors with whom we ask very direct questions about ethics and behavior.

Related Reading From the December 2018 Edition of Friday With Joan

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