Your hiring process might feel perfect. You assess for skills and cultural fit. You deliver an excellent candidate experience. You even involve your team in the interview process, so everyone has a say in who joins the team.
However, you’re likely overlooking one important aspect — business ethics.
A candidate’s business ethics have nothing to do with their skills and experiences. However, they’re arguably one of the most important qualities you need to be aware of throughout the hiring process.
Hiring a team of ethical employees who value your culture of fairness and diversity is crucial to the success of any business practice. To learn more about making business ethics a priority in your hiring, we spoke with Ira S. Wolfe.
As the founder and president of Success Performance Solutions, an employment services provider located in Wind Gap, PA, Wolfe sees the value business ethics has for every organization and emphasizes why you must assess candidates’ ethics before making the offer.
“In 20 years of working with companies, I rarely hear managers or HR ask in-depth interview questions about ethics,” he says. “It seems to be one of the number one traits an organization’s looking for is integrity, but people don’t seem to interview for that.”
Read on for the full transcript of Wolfe’s explanation on the role business ethics play in the bigger picture and how you can assess for it during the hiring process:
My name is Ira Wolfe. My company is Success Performance Solutions, and I’m the author of the new book, Recruiting in the Age of Googalization.
Business Ethics are Inseparable from the Brand
A company’s brand is more important than ever. It takes years to create that brand and build a positive image, but with the age of social media, it can be destroyed in just seconds.
So it’s more important than ever to hire employees who can build and sustain that image and add value, rather than taint it.
A Lack of Definition Hinders Hiring for Ethics
Business ethics means a lot of things to a lot of people. For some, it’s as simple as reliability, showing up on time, or actually showing up at all or honesty. Certainly, stealing, theft, and embezzlement is a pretty clear-cut indictment of business ethics.
But it gets a little bit more cloudy when it comes to higher-level positions when it involves confidentiality, compliance, safety, conscientiousness, and social responsibility.
The biggest challenge that many organizations have is finding out what the business ethics of a candidate are and whether they are going to fit into your organization. It isn’t necessarily a problem of the candidate but a lack of definition by the company because very few business discussions are had until there’s potentially a breach of that ethics.
Testing for Integrity Is Not a Science… But It Is Objective
In 20 years of working with companies, I rarely hear managers or HR ask in-depth interview questions about ethics. It seems to be one of the number one traits an organization’s looking for is integrity, but people don’t seem to interview for that. Organizations seem to think there’s a correlation between 10 years of experience or a particular school that somebody went to that’s related to that.
When questions about ethics are asked, it’s almost like they’re looking for the candidate to give the one right answer, to begin with so they can move on because it’s a difficult subject. It’s difficult to discuss ethics. So the manager asks the question about ethics, the candidate gives a response and then the interviewer just happens to move on. If business ethics is important in your organization, then it should be made an important part of the interview and screening processes.
Some of the best practices relating to assessing a candidate’s business ethics is not an exact science. But there are a few steps that you can take.
Ask Situational Questions
The first is, the interview should include several questions to assess how a candidate might respond to an ethical dilemma. You might ask how they would handle a situation where they observed a co-worker, employee, or even a manager stealing or even harassing someone. Part of [the strategy] is to put them on the spot a little bit and you can pose some hypothetical situations but it’s most beneficial if you can find some situations that are realistic.
Train Your Interviewer
Making sure the interviewer is trained is another aspect. Making sure they’re comfortable because asking questions about business ethics can put both the interviewer and candidate on the spot. The interviewer needs to be comfortable with that and know how to handle it.
Conduct Reference and Background Checks
Reference checks are also important, although they’re very difficult to get. But background checks are a must, especially for critical situations where business ethics is essential. They don’t always expose anything but oftentimes they will reveal that somebody falsified their resume either with employment or education.
Those are relatively easy to check, but more of the challenging ethical dilemmas are going to be difficult to find with a background check, but you can expose those who might be a high risk.
Assess for Risks
Finally, there are some pre-employment testing assessments for honesty, integrity at the associate level. They can test for risks of absenteeism, tardiness, theft, hostility, sexual harassment, and computer abuse. Those are validated, legal, and compliant with the EEOC.
Although they are not a slam-dunk or an exact science, they do help to identify the people who are high risk. Most of those assessments also come with interview questions based on how the person responded.
So if they do have some behaviors that are suspicious, then they responded in a way that might indicate they have a risky or volatile attitude, you’ll have interview questions to be able to assist in digging a little deeper.
Test for Conscientiousness
For management, sales, and senior-level executives, it’s a little bit harder. But most personality tests include a scale called conscientiousness. It’s one of the most validated, reliable personality trait scales that’s out there.
While it won’t detect if somebody is honest or not, it will determine how closely that person leans towards whether they use rules and guidelines over black-and-white thinking.
In some organizations, that can be tolerated. Sometimes you want people to push the limits and the envelope a little bit, as long as they don’t cross the line. In other industries or jobs, it’s critical that they abide by the rules and comply with regulations as they are.
So while it’s difficult to assess business ethics and integrity, there are assessment tools that can assist in it. Background and reference checks can also help. Becoming more skilled at behavioral and situational interview should help a great deal.