Character Is What You Do When You Need the Fee

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May 14, 2015

A brilliant man (Dwight L Moody) once said “character is what you do in the dark.” So, when you are alone and contemplating whether to do what’s right versus what will likely make you more money, which path do you choose?

As an executive recruiter who has established himself as an expert (at least in my own mind), I have to manage that challenge almost every day. Do I strive to make more placements or do I choose to act solely on behalf of my clients’ best interests?

Now that I have cultivated the skills to become an exceptional screener of IT sales talent, do I share my observations, both positive and negative, about each candidate I present? Do I persuade a candidate to accept a job offer with a company I have damaging information about without disclosing that data? Do I actively recruit from a previous client?

The decisions we make when no one’s watching reveal everything about us.

In sports, there’s a saying that if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying! But where is the line you live by that cannot be crossed when it comes to the daily grind of making a living? Every sales manager/VP sales/CEO I have represented wants the most competitive, driven, hard-working employee I can find. But how do we know whether our recruits know how to use that self-motivation to act within our moral code? Is it okay not to uphold your professional standards if you don’t know about it? And, by the way, what is a white lie?

The answers I have come to personally are sad. For me, too often the way in which I have made many decisions in my long, successful career is driven by money. How badly I need a deal has overridden my moral compass. I admit it. My character, and therefore my integrity, is flawed. Hopefully, now that I have recognized this weakness, I will act more honorably regarding every interaction, every deal, every day.

There are many reasons for me to articulate these introspective thoughts. One is to help clients and candidates to become more aware of this issue. Sure you would be wise to consider a search consultant’s industry tenure and track record before selecting one to work on your behalf, but be sure to also ask former clients or candidates about their reputation for treating people and processes with dignity.

In essence, once you have educated a search professional regarding your requirements, you are empowering him or her to provide you with exactly the person you need to hire. But, if you cannot trust the motives of your recruiter, you have nothing.

And the main reason for this piece is to honor a man I met about three weeks into my career as a headhunter some 33 years ago. We have become the closest of friends over the years, so when I say he’s the most trustworthy and honest person I have ever known, it covers a lot of ground! This truly great recruiter himself placed over 800 IT professionals in Colorado throughout both good and some seriously bad years. His graceful and ethical way of serving his clients and candidates has had a profound impact on me and, most likely, hundreds of other recruiters in Colorado.

Thank God for Stan Brown! We are all better because of how he’s touched our lives with his gentle genius. I dedicate these words and my intent to consistently do the right thing, which is often the HARD thing, to him.

P.S. Please share this with any recruiting professionals you know.