“There is no place for ethics in recruitment”

ethicsAccording to a prospective client that I met this week, there is no place in his business for someone who puts ethics high on their list of importance, and any agency that says the opposite are either liars or on the fast track to going bust.

Took me a little while to digest this. It was either a ludicrously stupid comment from one of those, old school, used-car-sales type kind of aggressive recruiters, or it was just a very honest statement that reflects what some of the industry is about…. get the money in the door at all costs.

Good behaviour, honesty, having a moral compass… call it what you will, ethics is a part of the conversations I am having more and more these days. Recruiters, (candidates in my world), often talk to me about wanting to work with a more ethical company… where they don’t need to go home and scrub themselves with pumice stone every night to get rid of the stench of bullshit they are forced to go through.

Very few people are likely to openly admit that they don’t care about ethics – it’s not a good look – whilst some sound so pious that they are not believable, or are more likely to be suited to a life as a monk or nun than working in a commercial enterprise. It’s probably easier to not really take anyone at face value when they talk about where they sit on the ethical scale… like a lot of those things that recruiters and recruitment agencies claim, that actually has very little substance and means very little.

Here’s the thing though…

Ethics has never really been tested in our industry. Until relatively recently, most people used recruitment agencies as their first port of call to hire staff or find a new job, and there was enough opportunity out there for even The Artful Dodger to make money… remember the days before LinkedIn and big internal recruitment teams. Ethics had very little correlation to the commercial success of a business and therefore not really relevant. But that was then and this is now….

People now have a choice about how they hire and get a new job. Add to that the constant feedback and trial by social media that we are all exposed to, especially the bad stuff, and you could make the argument that nowadays ethics is not just a nice thing, but commercially makes a lot of sense.

I am no moral crusader or ethical warrior, and I definitely wouldn’t claim that everything I have done in my 15 years in recruitment has always been 100% ethical. And I am motivated by making money as much as the next recruiter. But, in this changing landscape that we all operate in, I think that ethics has become as important as sales ability, resilience or one of the other criteria we traditionally associate with a successful a recruiter. Same goes for the brand of any agency. Candidates and clients don’t need to use us as much as they once did… and if you constantly operate unethically, then it is unlikely they will.

Luke Collard


3 thoughts on ““There is no place for ethics in recruitment”

  1. Charles Cameron on Reply

    Nice take on the push-pull of ethics and profit-making Luke. You are spot on that ethical practice has increasingly become the defining feature of the truly professional recruiter. In my first month as CEO of RCSA I have heard so many firms calling for more teeth within the industry body (RCSA) to ‘bite’ the disreputable players. Presumably they are sick of hearing of your ‘prospective client’s’ approach and how it damages our proud industry. Don’t get me wrong, I will also passionately defend the right of business to be commercially successful, as I have been a business owner who knows the sacrifices made however, I will not tolerate unprofessional practice that we have fought so hard to remove from the industry.

    Luke, I encourage all of your readers to check out the proposed new Employment Services Industry Code at http://www.esicode.com and tell me whether we have the balance right, as this code is proposed to become applicable to all firms, whether members or not.

    Three Cheers for Professional Profit Making!!

  2. Ross Clennett on Reply

    Nicely said, Luke. My experience that acting ethically in recruitment may cause short term losses (small ones, at that) but in the long run the dividend it returns with respect to reputation and being a recruiter of choice more than outweighs those losses. Plus it’s much more likely to lead to a longer career in recruitment.

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