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Recruiting Ethics?

(August 25, 2005)  An oxymoron?

In a "must-read" dialog, Nick Corcodilos (of Ask the Headhunter Fame) slams John Sullivan, the most effective recruiting consultant in the world, for encouraging low ethical standards in the Recruiting Industry. In a recent article,  Corcodilos offers point by point outrage at a case study offered by Sullivan on the ERExchange. (Thanks to Recruiting.com for pointing it out.)

So, what's all the fuss? Recruiting jokes almost always use the gray area ethics of our industry as the punchline. (Here's one, or two). The very fact that recruiting straddles the boundaries of two (often competitive) organizations raises questions about competitive intelligence and competitive practice. Unlike the free-market (with clear regulations) of sports recruiting, industrial recruiting is a netherland with strange historical themes.

In the UK, these days, the government is offering forms of restitution (non-cash) for the destructive consequences of hiring medical professionals away from Africa (and thus dooming their AIDs infection rates to rise). In South East Asia. elaborate recruiting regulations are being established to govern the trade in human beings and lost expectations associated with cross-national immigration and employment. American labor imports are currently curtailed but have led to similar forms of abuse around the world. The American Military is using school enrollment records to drive its failing recruiting efforts only to discover that Republican parents are outraged by this "breach of ethics". Job Boards sell the names of their "candidates" faster than you can spell spam. The majority of the population of Mexico's innermost 6 states lives in America.

These are all recruiting issues.

And then, there's Nick, whining about Sullivan's applause for a recruiting team that snuck into a competitor's conference by wearing fake lapel buttons. Perhaps they should be chastised for thinking small.

Meanwhile, Sullivan crawls further out on a limb with

  • "I can site court cases that say it's illegal to park illegally... but so what, I still park illegally on occasion, and I pay the fine for it. Calculate the ROI of being sued... and then you might have a case both lawyers and executives would listen to"  and,
  • "If stealing employees (a cost) is somehow unethical or illegal... how come stealing their customers (a revenue source) is ok. My friends in sales would be LOL at this discussion. And if you hire a third party to steal employees (as most do) that is somehow different and ok??In business you compete... in everyway, everyday. Recruiting is not social work... it's business

    (From the very interesting, if small minded, discussion of the Sullivan article.)

A tempest in a teapot, perhaps, but good for both Nick and John's web traffic. Controversy is the best form of education and promotion.

These issues are neither new nor settled. In the international labor markets (see above), behavior that could have been justified in markets with surplus labor is now causing meaningful harm. When recruiting causes death rates to go up, we have to say that an ethical line must have been crossed. While the American elite whine about nuances of domestic trade practice, the context is shifting.

We are entering the era of flat or declining world population. What are loosely understood as matters of "ethics" are certain to become matters of National security. Certainly the African countries whose workers leave the population without adequate healthcare when they migrate think of it in these terms.

So many simple issues get "stood on their heads" when population goes from being an infinite supply to a constricted and scarce one.

Tomorrow, we'll look deeper into the question of Recruiting Ethics and supply scarcity.


In the lengthy discussion of recruiting ethics in response to the Sullivan Article, Karen Mattonen, Senior Recruiter, Advanced Career Solutions Inc offers some conservative advice: (we fixed spelling and renumbered)

  1. Be aware of your Associations and Industry Laws - Some association do have extremely strict federal governing laws that can wreck havoc ie financial, real estate, insurance.. - one does NOT want the feds involved. (some of these laws are based upon privacy ie financial institutions, that can affect the recruiting process) Watch out for conflict of interest.
  2. If the Union affects your industry also be aware of the STATE laws affecting recruiting, MOST states have very similar laws noted in my last post.
  3.  Know the Unfair Competition laws of your STATE or the state you are recruiting from, since that could be a hassle, try relying on common sense.
  4. ASK questions - Do you have a non compete, are you on a contract, non disclosure, or an anti raiding provision in your clause. Be aware of all Restrictive Covenants. You DO not want to be held liable for helping that individual breaking that contract. 'Even though the employee has a right to work, they have a legal binding contract that a third party intentionally helped break and the possessor of a contract or other property right is entitled to pursue a claim against an intermeddler who adversely affects those property rights'
  5. Do not at any time Launch a campaign to RAID, POACH or act in a Way that may be considered Predatory - that is setting up red flags which now helps give your competitor a legal fighting chance in court. This ups his proof against you at your perceived intent. Be selective, be smart, raiding a whole department at ONE time, not smart. Recruit from more than one company over a period of time is probably smarter... Hiring an individual just to take him away from a competitor not smart, Hiring individuals to impede a business Really not smart. (Employee poaching law are also in effect in CA, Europe and England - common law maybe?)
  6. DO Not go after a company when they are hurting to 'put them out of their misery' Montgomery Ward V Sears The court ruled that one company may not hire away employees of another company with the intent of crippling that company. SAP V Siebel(settled out of court) (The government likes competition in business - it means more money for the economy and taxes for them... LOL)
  7. Stay honest and legal in your postings and interview, (this is also where the government agencies and EEOC, even private individuals can come after you..YES they have been known individuals respond to these posts and interview to test companies. see Molovinsky v. Fair Employment Council of Greater Washington)
  8. Be careful how you discuss your competitor at ALL Times.. It does get back..
  9. Anyways, it really does boil down to commonsense; there are many things we all need to look out for regarding recruiting. Knowing your information does and will protect you. Joining a group like SHRM or NAPS also keeps you up to date on the new legal changes.. They can happen quickly
  10. Definitely Talk to your lawyer (be honest about ALL your intended actions, or current). Read your Employer handbook..

Don't forget to check out the blogs on bert.

- John Sumser

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