Everything you do matters. This phrase made its way into my life when my soon to be spouse and I were in a local letterpress shop getting our wedding invitations designed. I was scanning the various works of art hanging on the walls of the tiny shop. My eyes caught a beige piece of paper hosting monochromatic text that read, Everything you do matters. I began to recall life experiences that illustrated how this phrase had applied in specific ways.
Because we are social creatures, we collectively care about ethics (or should!), because we are concerned with the ways in which our conduct impacts others. We care about impact as consequence, as well as the perceptions that our conduct shapes. As others explore the ripples left by our conduct, they also form perceptions regarding our ethics. While we often limit our exploration of what is and is not ethical to extreme hypotheticals that we never encounter (i.e. post-apocalyptic storylines), far too often we forget that all of our micro actions (i.e. how present we are in conversation) are important. These micro actions should not be dismissed as being too trivial to register on the Richter scale of ethical conduct. I argue that it is in these micro ethical actions that we are granted the most freedom to express our care for others. For, while we can never be certain of the multitude of ways our conduct is of consequence, we can be certain that it influences a multitude of outcomes.
Approaching search processes with a mindset of humble uncertainty may get us closer to a variety of ethical goals, including communicating ethically with candidates. The uncertainty can serve as a metaphorical string on one’s finger. It can remind one to question the impact that prescribed methods of communication can have on candidates, one’s professional integrity, and the perceptions formed of a department. These questions matter when questioning how people are treated during the process. The majority of candidates are never seen in-person; yet, we cannot allow ourselves to forget to treat each individual with an ethic of care. Each candidate deserves to be treated with the highest form of dignity and respect we can feasibly offer (i.e. remember the importance of micro ethical actions), while adhering to the guidelines dictated by departmental recruitment policies, institutional HR policies, and federal laws.
A courteous action, and an ethical action may cross paths during the search process, however, ethics and courtesy should not be confused as interchangeable. Within the context of a specific search process, I suggest some general tenants to adhere to:
1) Be as organized and thorough with your communication as possible.
2) Provide as much context about the position as possible to candidates, with the goal of enabling them to make an informed decision.
3) Be honest with the candidate, including granting them the opportunity to be exposed to differing viewpoints.
4) Challenge the assumptions you make about an ‘ideal’ candidate, as well as the assumptions you form about each candidate.
5) Communicate your expectation of ethical communication with all involved in the search process. Communicating ethically with candidates is not a static state one can achieve; strive to continually hone ethical communication through practice, intentional reflection, and by remaining humble to external feedback that may illustrate the meaning of, everything you do matters.
Special thanks goes to Alexandrea Davenport and Tracey Paul for providing their personal feedback as colleagues who have recently conducted search processes as candidates .
This post is part of our #SArecruits series, which will share experiences from a variety of #SApros who have hired new employees. We hope that these stories will give great insight for both professionals looking to improve their hiring tactics, and also those on the job search looking for an inside perspective. For more information, please see Bill Mattera’s intro post. Be sure to check out other posts in this series!
> BONUS <
Podcast With Mallory Bower on Career Services and Job Search Tips