Back to Latest Posts

What is the ethical thing to do? (Guest blog by Brenda Devlin)

(Our first guest blog - thank you to Brenda Devlin!)

An HR professional in the job market:

As an HR leader, I found myself in the job market recently after successfully restructuring myself out of a job. Going into the job search, I was confident the process would not be difficult for me because I had developed and maintained strong relationships with colleagues, vendors, brokers, and search partners throughout my Human Resources career. Something unexpected happened in my job search, however, that I would like to share.

Several years ago, I worked for a large employer and had an employee come to me in confidence about potentially unethical and harassing behavior taking place in another department.  As an HR professional, I know it is our fiduciary duty to investigate these situations, and I informed my own department head that I would be doing so.  My leader completely agreed.  Throughout the process I was sensitive to the fact that the accused leader was at a vice presidential level and if faced with an employment decision - could ruin a career.  The outcome ended positively for the company - the accused leader saw the writing on the wall and resigned, having secured a great opportunity with a search firm.

When a prior HR investigation interferes with your career:

Now, fast forward to my recent job search.  During the process, I had contacted several search partners while others contacted me to discuss various opportunities.  What happened with two of these firms disappointed me.  I found myself being treated very differently by two specific search firms, both of which were search firms that had employed, or currently employed, the VP, now turned Search Partner.  I found myself being stonewalled by these two search firms for HR roles for which I was a candidate.  Was it because of a grudge?

 The ethical dilemma:

I discussed the situation with a few of my closer colleagues in the search business and we agreed the answer was not clear- it depends.  While it doesn’t feel right, there truly is no solid code of conduct to which search firms must adhere. Each search firm goes about this process differently-- because that is how they differentiate themselves in the market.  They each use their own process for sourcing, vetting and placing qualified candidates.  We agreed that the industry is part science, part art, part feel – to be successful in finding the “right” person for the “right” fit.

I find myself conflicted: the situation did not feel right and yet there is no ”rule” which governs these situations. So I would like to ask what would you do as an HR professional?  And what is the ethical thing for the former VP turned Search Partner to do?

Should the Search Partner simply recuse him/herself from any searches where my name might come up? Moreover, should this person share his/her perspective about me as an HR professional with other search partners even if his/her own view may be jaded? I would love to read on these pages what you think.

The End of the Story

I am happy to report that my job search resulted in my acceptance of a new Human Resources Leadership role.  I want to thank the many former employees, search partners, vendors and fellow HR professionals for the wonderful support, assistance and networking during in my job search.

Brenda Devlin - Head of HR Department

United Skin Specialists, LLC