HR and Compliance: Working Together to Hire Ethical Employees

Human resources and compliance professionals share many common objectives and interests. They need to coordinate and operationalize their joint interests in a variety of ways.

One area that demands more focus is the hiring of ethical employees. The ISO 37001 Anti-Bribery Management System includes important requirements for the hiring (or transfer) of employees to functions that involve bribery risks.

So much attention has been paid to engaging third parties. Companies have to revisit their own hiring practices because of the serious risks that an employee may create if he/she is willing to jettison ethical principles in favor of short-term financial benefits.

Hiring managers need to focus on ethics-related character traits – integrity and accountability – when screening job candidates. In some cases, character traits may outrank the importance of a specific job skill. I would argue that integrity is the most important trait that a potential employee must have in order to survive the job application and screening process.

If a hiring manager has concerns about the applicant’s honesty, accuracy of the candidate’s resume or possible misconduct or untruthfulness in the past, the candidate should be excluded from consideration. Assuming that a candidate passes the integrity screen, the hiring manager should then focus on work ethic, self-motivation and accountability.

A hiring manager has to conduct interviews that focus directly on the candidate’ integrity. An interview must confirm the integrity and overall honesty of the candidate. A candidate that honestly reports an accomplishment with a group or a team is a strong indicator of integrity and a cooperative and confident perspective.

The company’s job announcement should include a specific notice that prior positions, references and a background check (if permitted under state law) will be conducted. This sends an important message to an applicant – the company demands honesty and integrity and will verify these traits during the employment screening process.

Unfortunately, the rate of misrepresentations in resumes continues to hover around 20 percent. If a job candidate’s prior history is inaccurate, that should be a disqualifying factor. Even executive candidates lie in approximately 10 to 20 percent of submitted resumes.

When speaking to references or prior supervisors, hiring managers should focus on behavioral indicators of a candidate’s ethics and integrity, including the applicant’s attendance, willingness to follow instructions, assistance to co-workers, timeliness and disciplinary record.

To the extent a company can employ pre-employment testing, the hiring manager should ensure that integrity is a tested attribute for a candidate. This is usually accomplished through scenarios that focus on the candidate’s attitude towards risky workplace behavior, theft, lying and unethical behavior. In addition, the test can include questions on the candidate’s attitude toward misuse of company resources, email and Internet abuse, trust with confidential information and personal responsibility.

A hiring manager has to ensure that a candidate fits the company’s ethical culture. For example, the candidate’s attitude should be tested by questions relating to the company’s compliance program, ethical code of conduct and sustainability programs, as well as the company’s reputation for trust and integrity.

Candidates should be asked about prior instances in which they acted ethically – such as reporting misconduct by others, and involvement in compliance and ethics events. If the candidate is applying for a financial position, the candidate should be asked about ethical issues that may have come up in prior positions and how the candidate resolved the specific issue.

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  1. November 2, 2017

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