“Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do..” (Potter Stuart)
It’s been a little while since I have wrote a post, and have been toying with the idea of this one for a little while. Perhaps it might rattle a few cages, perhaps something that shouldn’t be spoken about. However, purely for the fact that no-one does for no good reason, I am going to speak up and out and hopefully, someone somewhere will listen (or at least have a read!)
I have been looking for work for a little while now, and like everyone in the population, it is a damn hard market out there. With budget cuts and tight margins, companies have figured out how to do maximise workforces with minimum cost. Which generally means – “we aren’t recruiting right now!”
In the flooded market, Recruitment Agencies have their place, sifting through hundreds of applicants to find the ‘right person’ for their client. An every day occurance and nothing out of the ordinary there.
Now, I have a background in Recruitment, and prided myself on doing my job well; honestly, ethically, and above all, I helped people. (I made the company – and myself – a good amount of money doing so as well. Though I hasten to add money is not the be all or end all of anything!). I understand how the system works, and for the majority of Consultants, they work very hard. Long hours, and mountains of targets, all potentially not to receive payment at the end of it (if their candidate does not get the job, lots of work for nothing).
I have a lot of respect for people doing this job well. Working to the letter. Doing their job as it should be done. However their are many that are crossing the line, and being ‘rather naughty’ (a whimsical term that is perhaps too light hearted for this article). Many are taking advantage of people’s desperation and niaivity to do and ask things that are a, unethical. and b, against the law.
My example is as follows. I went for an interview, with a rather large, successful recruitment company in London last month. On the application form, the following question looked at me bleakly from the front page:
“have you visited your GP or a hospital in the past 36 months? If yes, please give details.”
Now, for a start, this question is not allowed to be asked at interview stage. If you get a job with someone, and you have something you need to decalre that is relevant (wheelchair access etc) but to this detail, at a 1st interview? nah-uh.
With this information to hand I left the question blank and casually filled out the rest. I was then questioned by HR as to why I hadn’t filled out this part of the form, and implied I was hiding something from them? I explained that of course, like practically the entire population, I had in fact, been to the doctors in the past year and a half. But not to worry! There was nothing relevant (nor which I was willing to declare in that much detail) that affected my day to day work or the position in any way. She tried twice to get something to put down, however I stuck to my guns, was firm, but polite, until she was happy enough with the answer, and tootled off form in hand.
It saddens me to say it happens on all sides, I was once shouted at (for questioning training of a new employee, as I overheard a director saying “if they haven’t been in the UK more than 4 years, or have a name that isn’t traditionally English, ask about a Visa”) and told “well, you write down the rules Sarah, and we’ll abide by them” to which I calmly retorted “they are already written down, its the law and therefore self explainatory”. Needless to say, it went down like a ton of bricks….I was fortunate to know the information, and didn’t fill it out. Although I felt inane pressure to divulge areas of my life that are no-ones business but my own, despite knowing it was stepping way over the line. What about the other applicants? What about other people that have declared all sorts on their forms and potentially heeded them in the job completely? (Illegal to not deny a job to someone based on that by the way, but how do you prove it? A whole other article there….)
I’d like to say that these are the only incidents where i’ve experienced such glaring incompetence. I’d like to say it was a one off, and I have never experienced such idiocy before or since. But speaking with friends who work in recruitment, and Consultants in a professional capacity, its a daily occurrance for some.
This isn’t an article smearing Recruitment Agencies (or even companies that have done similar directly to people). Just the ones that said ridiculous acts occur in. The ones that when their clients say “we only want women/men/over 30s/certain ethnicities” , don’t educate them in that they are liable and breaking the law in asking such things, but actively work to the discriminatory guidelines set by their clients. (To those of you that are maybe shocked, this happens A LOT.)
I have been grilled and questioned (nothing short of shining a light in my eye) about aspects of my personal life that have no relevance to a job (asking why I do work for charities? Why bother? There must be a reason? “Trying to give something back and make a difference in the world’ wasn’t a good enough answer) and had pressure to give out details of such a nature I left feeling, well, rather violated. I find myself having to remind the world it is 2011.
I”m not hoping to change an entire industry, or how anyone on the inside thinks or goes about their daily business, but frankly, if we, the job seeker, or even we as people are a little bit more clued up, not be afraid to be assertive for rights we are entitled to.
Perhaps I am an idealist, and I want the world to treat everyone the same. I haven’t worked in recruitment for a long while now, and love the marketing and social media world. I know I will find a job too. One with a company that applauds ones morals, not treats you with disdain for having any.