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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

How to Ethically Engage in the Job Search

Sahil Sagar, Markkula Center Hackworth Fellow

Sahil Sagar, Markkula Center Hackworth Fellow

Sahil Sagar

Sahil Sagar ’20, a 2019-20 Hackworth Fellow with the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, researched what the ethics of future employment will look like in order to better help students gain insight on the ethics of building a career by exploring both the perspective of the employer during the hiring process as well as the point of view of the candidate in the job search. Sahil worked with Ann Skeet, senior director of Leadership Ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics to create a valuable resource for anyone searching for a job.

As a student attending SCU, one of the most attractive attributes about the university is its location. I’m not just talking about the beautiful campus, but rather the fact that SCU is located in the middle of Silicon Valley, one of the most exciting and fast-paced career hubs in the world. Once recruiting begins, students often feel like landing a job is a combination of network, GPA, and extracurriculars. An important aspect always seems to be left out of the equation—ethics.

I decided to focus my efforts on researching what the ethics of future employment will look like in order to better help students gain insight on the ethics of building a career by exploring both the perspective of the employer during the hiring process as well as the point of view of the employee in the job search.

You may be thinking, "Why do I care about ethics in the job place?" Great question! To simply put it, what you do matters, not what you think, say, or plan. Ethics are the foundation for which your morals and values rest upon. As a professional, your actions, results, and work are a reflection of you as a person. As a result, ethics is completely intertwined with the image of your personal and professional self.

I started my research by both scanning web resources with advice for interviewees and by interviewing a number of industry professionals in hiring-level positions to get their input on the job hiring process. The questions were designed to inquire about how ethics is playing a role in a rapidly changing interviewing market. After interviewing a number of professionals with organizations like Ernst & Young, McKinsey & Company, and Santa Clara University HR, I synthesized together a list of 10 things to consider while actively seeking a job:

  1. Actively communicate what you want and don’t want in a job, remember that the objective is a fit for the company and the candidates.
  2. Outline what you are willing to commit to learning and what you already know.
  3. Ask clarifying questions as necessary. Remember that employment is a relationship between a company and a candidate and behave as you do in other relationships that are important to you.
  4. Provide clear communication about competing offers and the timing of a response you can provide as a candidate. Honor the policies of the hiring process detailed by the company.
  5. Employers should embrace diverse hiring and continue to adjust the hiring process as needed.
  6. Candidates should refrain from providing information that has not been asked for in order to uphold the integrity of the processes and reduce bias.
  7. The process relies on all parties including the university, the employer, and potential hire to represent themselves well.
  8. Upholding the reputation of all parties increases the value of the relationships within and outside the institutions.
  9. Look for the best match between your personal values and the company’s mission and goals.
  10. Reflect on your own personal skills and character and prepare by thinking how to best convey them to the company throughout the process

In conjunction with this list, I also identified five main ethical principles to be aware of throughout the interviewing processes: Honesty, Reciprocal Responsibility, Justice, Reputation, and Virtue (see pamphlet below for more information). The principles serve as a reminder of how to behave ethically and consider the obligations you may have as a potential employee.

Sahil Sagar, Markkula Hackworth Fellow, conducts a panel on ethical job searching

On March 4th, 2020 I had the opportunity to invite a panel of individuals with a variety of experiences, including representatives from Verizon, Clumio, and the City of San Jose. to talk about the ethics of the job hiring process, The panel discussed certain legal, diversity and inclusion, and technical-related questions related to recruiting to get a better idea of what individuals in hiring positions are looking for in a candidate. From the discussion with panelists and fellow students, some key points surfaced:

“Companies care about ethics, it’s something that companies are focusing on.” --Verizon Representative 

“When being hired for a job, you are entering into a relationship. You must respect both your feelings [as an employee] and your employer's role.” --City of San Jose Representative 

“The hiring process is changing rapidly from generation to generation.”--Clumio Representative  

Following this discussion, on March 17th, 2020 Santa Clara University announced that the university will be closed for the rest of the quarter due to the COVID-19 epidemic. Some of the largest companies are filing for bankruptcy, millions are applying for unemployment, and thousands of college students have had their offers rescinded or put on hold till further notice. 

The world’s economy has come to a standstill. 

This has been especially troublesome for the graduating Class of 2020. A huge portion of our senior year has been stolen from us, the start of our once-solid entry into the workforce is now shaky, and there is much more uncertainty about our future. 

What does this mean for jobs and hiring?

I wish I had the answer but I don’t. What I do know is that the job market has drastically changed and many of those changes will be long-lasting. 

Working remotely is now a norm, interviewing will likely continue to be virtual, and social media and digital presence is incredibly important now. Just like the panelists mentioned, the job hiring market is drastically changing and as recent college graduates we need to be adaptable to change. While applying to jobs and interviewing, we must be resilient and persevere through the challenges of this market and show our capabilities.

New graduates must be creative in how they use their time and how they use professional and personal social networks. Starting a new project, learning a new skill, and sharing a story are all ways to build your brand. The important thing to remember is to be intentional about the process and keep in mind your virtues and values while you take on new ways to enhance your skills. It’s now up to us to lead a new era of the job market. 

I challenge the Class of 2020 and following graduates to be creative in how they approach post-graduate life (with or without a job) while also remembering to be ethical while doing it.


Jun 22, 2020

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