Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

How Ethics Can Help You Land a Job

By Miriam Schulman MappingIssues

I've participated in lots of hiring decisions as part of my work at Santa Clara University's Markkula Center for Applied Ethics — we've conducted searches for student workers, interns and professional staff. That experience has shown me that candidates' ethics have a real impact on whether or not they get the job.

How would I know about someone's ethics from reading a resume or conducting an interview? Well, here are some qualities I look for — with apologies for a little ranting — trust me, these are pet peeves worth knowing about:

Respect

Different generations often have different understandings of respect, but since your application will likely be reviewed by someone who, like me, is middle-aged, it's a good thing to consider the standards of my age group. You don't know me, so please don't address your cover letter, "Hi Miriam," and certainly not "Hey." More important, respect my intelligence by checking your spelling and grammar. You wouldn't believe some of the howlers I've received from people whose smart phones have made inadvertent replacements like "intimate" for "initiative."

Also, respect the process we've outlined for applications. If the job listing says to send your materials via email, do that. Some students believe that showing up unannounced with resume in hand will convince me that they have initiative — I can't speak for all hiring managers, but to me, this shows a lack of consideration.

Finally, respect my time by not applying for a job for which you are unqualified. I'm not even allowed to consider an applicant who does not meet the minimum requirements set out in our job postings.

Responsibility

Your resume may be jam-packed with all the responsibilities you have taken on in extracurricular activities or work, but if you don't have the responsibility to show up for your job interview on time — barring subway breakdowns or family funerals) — I will not hire you.

It also makes me crazy when applicants haven't taken the responsibility to find out what my organization does. The job you're applying for may be technical, and you may be a master of Java and C, but an employer is still going to want you to know — and be interested in — whether you're programming for an organization that sells forklifts or one that raises money for starving children.

Honesty

It seems weird to have to say it, but don't lie on your resume. According to a survey by CareerBuilder.com, 49% of hiring managers reported they caught candidates doing just that. "Of these employers, 57% said they automatically dismissed the applicant." Only 6% actually hired the candidate.

If you lie, I may not find out right away, but somewhere in your career, these untruths can catch up with you. Just ask Dave Edmondson, former CEO of Radio Shack, or Kenneth Lonchar, former CFO of Veritas, two examples of executives who were forced to resign when their resume fibs came to light.

It stands to reason that employers are looking for hires with integrity. As much as we want employees with the skills to do the job, we want members of our work community whom we can trust. Show us, by the way you write your cover letter and resume, and the way you conduct yourself in an interview, that you are that ethical person.

Miriam Schulman is assistant director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University. The Center's Big Q Project offers a $100 Amazon gift certificate for the best student comment on ethical issues in the everyday lives of college students.

This article was originally published by USA Today College on March 5th, 2012


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