Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


CSR ‘should start with the recruitment process’

December 2010

Businesses that are serious about corporate responsibility ought to be carrying out ‘ethical due diligence’ of prospective employees during recruitment.

That’s the view of the Institute of Business Ethics (IBE), which has released advice on how companies can pay more attention to ethical issues when recruiting employees.

The IBE says that conducting ethical due diligence while recruiting ‘should be a starting point for any organization trying to establish an ethical culture’, and that it can help ensure ‘that individuals are selected who are more likely to reinforce and maintain the organization’s values and set an example’, especially at the top.

The guidance says any company conducting ethical due diligence in recruiting should first decide the characteristics defining an ethical employee, such as trustworthiness, honesty, openness and integrity.

Working with the human resources department, it should then determine how such characteristics might be incorporated into recruitment, whether implicitly or explicitly, and for which positions. This could, for example, mean that ‘ethical behaviours’ are put into a job description.

During the interview, candidates should be quizzed in a way that checks for awareness, understanding, and experience of ethical issues as they pertain to business.

This could involve an exploration of the interviewee’s knowledge of ethical issues within the sector, inquiring about any previous experiences of ethical issues or dilemmas in the workplace, or exploring their knowledge of the company’s core values.

Sam Eastwood, head of graduate recruitment at law firm Norton Rose, highlighted by the IBE as an organization that builds ethical due diligence into its recruitment, said the approach had paid dividends for his business. ‘It sends a message to potential recruits about the culture at Norton Rose and how we do business,’ he said. ‘We feel it’s essential recruits understand and practise our core values.’  

The guidance says bringing ethical matters into recruitment means that those who are chosen for a job ‘are less likely to conduct business or make decisions in a way that might undermine the organization’s ethics programme or reputation’. It emphasizes that raising ethical matters ‘makes the interviewee aware [they] are taken seriously’.

It also suggests that in the UK exercising ethical due diligence during recruitment could be considered as an example of an ‘adequate procedure’ for reducing the risk of bribery as required by the 2010 Bribery Act.

Interview questions to ask
 Have you ever taken a course or received training in business ethics?
 Have you ever had to deal with a specific ethical issue at work?
 Whom would you consult (first) if you faced a workplace ethical issue?
 If you were asked by your supervisor or co-worker to undertake an action you thought was unethical, how would you respond?
 Are you aware of any ethical issues in this sector?

Source: IBE 2010

Institute of Business Ethics | Global | Business ethics

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