When people are stressed and economic pressure rises, recruiters and leadership are often tempted to act in ways that may not be ethical. While I have never met a recruiter that thought of themselves as dishonest or unethical, many candidates feel that this is the case. They feel they have been told less than the truth and have been disrespected by recruiters who tell them half-truths, promise what they cannot deliver, and never point out any of the potential downsides of the organization.
We all get so caught up in our own success and survival that we forget to act in the best interests of the candidates, ourselves, and our organization. Almost everyone involved with talent acquisition is squirming under pressure from hiring managers to find qualified candidates as we emerge from this pandemic. Recruiters are quick to grasp at any solution that offers hope of giving them access to better people.
Sourcing tools are used without thought to whether they are biased or excluding potentially good candidates. The sources recruiters use to find candidates are often limited to a narrow spectrum of candidates. People who do no completely match the requirements are excluded.
Recruiters face pressure to source and close candidates in ways that may be legal, but not ethical. Often it is clear that a practice is illegal or just dishonest, such as agreeing with other companies to “fix” salaries at a certain level, but the real test comes in the “gray” areas. These are where it is possible to make an argument on either side of an issue and where the best answer is not simple. An example might be discrediting a competitor’s company to make a candidate more likely to accept your offer. Or it might be to tell a candidate that you have filled a position when you haven’t to avoid being transparent about their qualifications. Or using job descriptions that are a bit more enticing than the reality of the job.
Recruiters who use methods they know are deceitful or dishonest do no one a favor. They harm their employer’s reputation and sully their own. Recruiters who are not sure if a practice is wrong or not might do well to put themselves in the shoes of the candidate or the manager on the other side. They might also look at all the options and ask which of them does more good than harm. Good ethical practices treat all the parties concerned with dignity and respect and advance the values of the organization. In the long run, it is not important whether you “win” the candidate but whether you have done so with integrity and fairness.
Candidates are more aware of these practices, especially in markets with talent shortages and fierce competition. They are looking for transparency and candid answers to their questions. They are also demanding more control and transparency over what sources recruiters use to learn about them. Many people consider using Facebook or LinkedIn profiles to determine someone’s personality, for example, an invasion of privacy if done without permission.
The test of an ethical recruiter comes in part from what candidates say about you and the organization. Do they feel that they were respected, given full information, provided both sides of issues and that their experience was fair?
Can you refrain from going after passive candidates with aggressive tactics? Is it possible to avoid using deceit in your conversations with candidates and still be successful? And can you act more as a trusted partner with your candidates and hiring managers?
I believe recruiters can. There are countless ways organizations can attract the people they need without using unethical methods.
Create a Strong Brand
Define your target audience clearly and go after it with messages and promotions that are specific. Organizations that try to appeal to everyone with generic messages will have much less success in attracting the hard-to-find candidates They will ignore you and others, mostly the unqualified, will apply in droves. Provide honest information and develop an internal set of ethical practices.
Larger organizations have many talented and productive employees who would welcome an opportunity to do something different. Leading edge firms have developed internal systems that allow recruiters to locate people with specific skills within the organization. The systems capture employees’ skills, performance history, education and interests. These employees are usually passive – not looking for an internal move and not aware of the opportunity. Yet, they are often eager to take a look at that opportunity once they are approached. These systems also allow actively looking employees to add personal information or apply directly for posted positions. When there is a need to fill very highly specialized positions, internal people are frequently the best qualified to do so with the least amount of training.
Short-term Training and Coaching
Many times, employees can be upskilled more quickly than we think. Cisco, IBM, and countless other organizations have put together short-term, intensive training programs that enable employees to gain new skills and become productive in a matter of weeks over a few months. This is often no longer than it takes to source, screen, interview, and hire a candidate from outside who, after being hired, still needs time to become productive and to learn the new culture.
Educating Hiring Managers
Unethical practices are often unintentionally encouraged by hiring managers who are seeking the exact candidates they feel they need. We need to educate managers about the talent marketplace and the realities of the number of people who have the skills they need. We need to encourage them to promote internal transfers and upskilling as well as seek the external market. And they need to rethink job requirements that are unreasonable.
And you as a recruiter need to have a sterling reputation for honesty, transparency, and ethical practice. Those qualities will get you far more candidates and be the foundation of a long career.
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