The inside track

So we talk a lot about ethics in HR and recruitment, and rightly so.  Ethical behaviour should be at our core in business, whatever area we work in (whether it is, or isn’t, is another matter). At the same time, we’ve heard a lot recently about social mobility, the way in which connections at work and in industry can be used to help people with the right contacts progress more quickly than others. It goes without saying, that doesn’t seem fair.

But a couple of questions have been running through my head recently and I wanted to test them out. Those of us who are connected with others, either through formal or informal networks, will often come up against others asking about or applying for opportunities that we may have within our organisations, or for third party recruiters, that we are working on. What are the ethics that apply here?

If someone you knew, a friend or acquaintance, applied for a role. What would be the appropriate thing to do?

Do you accept that they are just another candidate and let the best person win.  Is it ever acceptable to help them understand the role and the organisation more than other candidates? I’m not talking about giving them a heads up on specific interview questions, or giving them privileged information that would provide them with a significant advantage, or even giving them a job just because you know them. But is it ok to coach them on the areas that they might be asked about, or the subjects that they might specifically want to think about or mention? Does it make a difference whether you are personally part of the recruitment process yourself?

I’ve had people from my team apply for jobs in the past and I’ve spent significant time coaching them for the selection process. I’ve talked to them about the approach they might want to take and the issues that they might want to address.  I’ve seen that as part of helping them develop and progress their careers within the organisation, but in reality it could be seen as giving them an unnatural advantage. Somehow, because they were internal, this seemed to be deemed acceptable.

Does it really matter whether they are an internal or an external candidate? If you could give someone you knew and valued the inside track, would you do so? And is that ok?

Should we be seen to be whiter than white or, as I expect, are there shades of grey?