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Ethics in Recruitment and Selection

Nuno Rebelo dos Santos, Leonor Pais, Carla Cabo-Leitao and Jonathan Passmore


Ethics in recruitment and selection has two main approaches, one regarding the policies underlying decisions to recruit professionals in a specific social group to provide a community with necessary services (e.g., Xu & Zhang, 2005), the other related to the way in which the specific processes of recruitment and selection are carried out (e.g., Chidi, Ogunyomi & Badejo, 2012; Dineen, Noe & Wang, 2004). This chapter focuses on the second approach, whether it concerns relationships among the people involved, the criteria used to exclude and rank the applicants or the transparency and fairness of the processes undertaken.

In this chapter we use the term ‘ethics’ anchored in the business ethics field. Recruitment and selection are actions carried out in a business context and for that reason it seems appropriate to frame the concept in this context. The business ethics concept was characterized by Robin (2009) based on fairness and respect for people. Both concepts apply to the various stakeholders involved in business activity. Inspired by these ideas, we use the expression ‘ethics in recruitment and selection’ in a comprehensive sense, corresponding to: the procedures, attitudes and behaviours that ought to be shown by those who are co-responsible at all levels for recruitment and selection in organizations, taking into consideration fairness and respect for everyone directly or indirectly affected by those procedures, attitudes and behaviours; and the characteristics of candidates which can be seen as ethical, where used as an explicit criterion for recruitment and selection.

First, we review the literature on values as a criterion for recruiting and selecting candidates. Although values are not the same as ethics, some values have an ethical dimension. Next, we review the relationships between those responsible for carrying out the recruitment and assessment process and applicants. Those on the employer’s side have the power

The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of the Psychology of Recruitment, Selection and Employee Retention,

First Edition. Edited by Harold W. Goldstein, Elaine D. Pulakos, Jonathan Passmore and Carla Semedo. © 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2017 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

to hire candidates for a specific position, and this asymmetric power requires special attention to the way the interaction and the relationship are put in place to guarantee fair and decent treatment. Then we turn to ethics in executive search and headhunting. These practices are based on a direct type of search for potential candidates (usually active employees) rather than using traditional methods, such as advertising a vacancy and waiting for applications. In the following section we focus on the ethical dimensions of the recruitment and selection process brought about by the exponential growth of social networks and social media. This technological tool adds complexity to recruitment and selection. As we further discuss, the integration of these tools has led to an urgent need to analyse the ethics underlying these processes in the HR field. We conclude by structuring the main conclusions, practical implications and avenues for future research.

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