Honesty is the best policy.

Certainly a phrase we've all heard, and likely one of life's first big lessons imparted on all of us. Why, then, do we have the temptation to keep information to ourselves or tell half-truths? Do we really think we are getting ahead? Will this sneaky tactic truly pay off in the long run? Considering that the majority of my career is ahead of me I won't make any claims to be the foremost authority on the subject, but some of the most honest and forthright people I've ever met have been far more successful than their seemingly dodgy counterparts.

To me, there are a number of reasons why honesty is so important in our profession. Some are obvious while others may be less so. In either case, I think every now and again it is important to think about the most basic elements of our work, the core of how we operate - our own personal code of ethics, if you will. Here are the top two reasons why I am honest to a fault while conducting business.

Honesty builds relationships. Not necessarily in a direct manner, but over time, and in conjunction with some other elements, being honest will not only build the relationship, it will ensure its longevity. This goes for both customers and candidates alike, and it is hard to tell which one honesty is more important for. While honesty with a customer is important for securing a payday (and hopefully the opportunity for more down the road), why be honest with our candidates?

Considering the following scenario:
Customer XYZ has asked you to fill a position in New York and you find the perfect candidate who happens to live in Ohio, but is willing to make the move provided the job is good. Mr. Candidate begins interviewing and the job seems to be exactly what he wants, the pay fits, and he likes the idea of living in New York. Company XYZ loves Mr. Candidate and offers him the job. Mr. Candidate is still a bit nervous to quit his job, pull his kids out of school, and relocate, but is putting his trust in you that this is a good move. However, before the deal is done, company XYZ tells you the job will only be around for about a year but they haven't told Mr. Candidate for fear of scaring him off. They will still pay a full fee because they can't get the work done without Mr. Candidate.

I feel like I'm back in a college ethics course, but I know what I would do. I wouldn't be able to look myself in the mirror if I did it any other way. I'd have to come clean with the candidate. It is almost a guarantee that he will turn down the job, but imagine his gratitude! Further, the next time you present an opportunity for him his confidence that the role is legitimate will be through the roof because you've signed off on it. I know that personal satisfaction doesn't pay the bills, but pulling the rug out from under an entire family isn't worth the extra cash in my pocket. No, I'd rather conduct honest business.

Shedding the slimy stigma. Let's face it, there are some recruiters out there who will do anything to make a buck and have given those of us who operate in a morally and ethically upstanding manner a bad name. Unfortunately this is a tough image to shed, and most customers inherently don't like hearing from us (even when you're an internal recruiter). Perhaps it is the fact that some associate us with the used car sales type pushing our wares on an unwitting shopper just looking to kick the tires. Perhaps it is the candidate who never got feedback, or worse yet got bogus reasons or a bland 'thanks, but no thanks' letter after going through three rounds of interviews. How do we go about shedding this image? Start by meaning what you say, and backing it up with actions. To cite another cliché, if actions speak louder than words, how loud will your actions speak if they always match what you say?

I think the guys from Spinal Tap had the right idea adding 11 to the dial...

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