Ethical issues in Recruitment and Selection22nd February 2021
Posting a job ad for a position that does not exist. There are a few reasons this may be done: to see what talent might be available in a potential new location; to attract passive candidates to build up a talent pipeline; to use up remaining postings in an expiring contract with an online jobs board, if only to collect resumes; to see if current employees will respond to a blind ad, indicating they are ready to jump ship; or to foster the idea that the company is growing and stable, rather than the opposite.
If, for any of these reasons, a job ad is posted when no open position actually exists, applicants, employees, clients and customers may be led to distrust the company or recruiter due to unethical practices. Reputations can be ruined quickly with a simple social media post; allowing only actual openings to be advertised will alleviate this risk.
Some ethical ways of researching talent availability in a new location include:
- Gathering demographic data. Do your research to find out about the education level, cost of living and unemployment rates in the area. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, local unemployment agencies and other government groups have this information available and will provide it at no cost.
- Talking to local business groups. The Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club or other local business groups can provide information on the employment climate in the area you are considering.
- Reading local publications. These newspapers or journals can be a wealth of information, as they may discuss the local labor market or highlight growth or shrinkage among local industries. Review the sections in which the hiring and promotions of local employees are announced, to see where people are being hired and what types of positions are highlighted. Most of these sections also have listings of job openings in the area.
- Data mining resume databases. Sites like Monster or LinkedIn, where people can post resumes, will give you a good idea of talent availability in the local market. Use these resources not only to assess availability, but also to target top candidates if you choose to move forward.
Misrepresenting the duties or requirements of an open position. This generally occurs when a position is difficult to fill, or a recruiting quota needs to be met and desperation sets in. Promising more autonomy or authority than a position has can lead to an unhappy hire and even more cost to the employer when the new hire quickly leaves. The same holds true for hiring someone who is overqualified, or hiring someone who is underqualified and becomes overwhelmed and unproductive. To maintain ethical practices and integrity as a recruiter and for your company, be completely transparent with applicants about what the job they are applying for entails.
Unethical employee referral practices. While a popular and successful tool to hire quality candidates, employee referral programs can create ethical issues of which HR should be aware. These issues can arise when senior-level employees make a referral and expect a hire, regardless of merit; a referred candidate is hired, and there is a sense that the referring employee is indebted to the hiring manager for “doing him or her a favor”; and special interests, such as a client referral, carry weight over merit.
Unethical use of social media. There are certainly legal risks in discovering and using protected-status information (e.g., age, ethnicity or religion) against an applicant; there are also ethical concerns.
At its most flagrant, unethical behaviors include recruiters’ creating fake social media accounts to gain access to applicant profiles to mine private information about them and access their friends. Even when candidates are notified that you will be looking at their accounts and thus require them to provide social media passwords (not legal in some states), you’ve crossed a line into their private lives and accessed information that is not job-related and therefore should not be used against them. But what is seen cannot be unseen, so ethically and legally there are limits to using such information.
Some essential factors for businesses to consider for ethical recruiting:
- Never place misleading job advertisements: This includes misrepresenting the requirements of a particular position. It also refers to working conditions and the current or projected state of the organisation.
- Interview correctly to ensure proper matching: It is vital for agencies to interview candidates thoroughly to match them with the right job. This includes giving guidance to candidates and helping them understand the offer and its associated career implications.
- Treat all candidates equally: An important ethical factor, it is essential not to discriminate on the basis of gender, race, origin, religion or political views. Always review candidates based on their merits. It is critical for HR professionals to be honest, consistent and objective throughout the recruiting process.
- Solicit only information that is necessary: For instance, information like the city a candidate was born does not matter or have an impact when it comes to their ability to perform a certain role. Where they currently reside, however, does have implications of where they are able to commute to on a daily basis.
- Maintain confidentiality on the use and storage of candidate information: Confidentiality is essential. This includes obtaining the candidate’s consent to release their details to a specific client or for a specific position. Conduct yourself in a transparent fashion, ensuring that a candidate fully understands the possible risks involved if going to work for a competitor to their current employer.
- Never practice redirection: This is when a recruiter takes feedback from a hiring manager after a candidate’s interview and sends it to the candidate. If the candidate can address the hiring manager’s worries, it increases the likelihood that they’ll be chosen for the job and the recruiter will secure their fee. It may be effective, but it’s highly unethical.
- Inform candidates appropriately of the selection decision: Always let a candidate know within a specified and communicated time-frame whether they got the job or not. Do not leave them hanging.