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What We Mean by Ethical Recruitment

February 18, 2020  |  5 min read

What is ethical recruitment? Our CEO Emma Hatto discusses what it means to us here at BOWER Talent…

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, as it’s one of the things we’re asked about all the time: Most likely because some believe that ‘ethical recruitment’ is an oxymoron—can you really put those two words next to each other?

Just like estate agents and used car salesmen, there can be a stigma around recruitment, thanks to years of unethical practices. Whilst there are now many exceptional recruiters and exciting recruitment businesses out there, the industry in general is still approached with caution, and it takes a while for candidates and clients to let their guard down and put their trust in us. 

This is exactly what we set out to change with Bower and what we’ve been purposefully working on ever since we launched. As ex-PAs and now business owners, we’ve been on both sides of the recruitment process and frankly, we always knew we could make it better, much better. Our mission is to take support staff recruitment out of the past and rebuild it on an ethical foundation that focuses on the future.

What is ethical recruitment?

Without going into the details just yet (there’s more on that below) ethical recruitment is fundamentally about understanding the gravity of work life. 

For both candidates and clients, where they work and who they work with 5 days out of 7, can have a massive impact on their wellbeing and livelihood. As recruiters, we have the responsibility to do everything in our power to make that a positive experience. 

What is unethical recruitment?

The recruitment industry can be fast-paced, low-fee and completely ruthless. This is what drives unethical recruitment. 

What does that look like? It’s when recruiters see candidates and clients as numbers and pound-signs. It’s when they use their position to support a client’s discrimination—may they be racist, homophobic or sexist. It’s when they put other people’s careers, businesses and data at risk just to meet their own targets and earn the juicy bonus they’ve hoping to get their hands on. 

Bower Talent’s approach to ethical recruitment

We have a strong ethos internally which means we choose the right outcome for the client and candidate, even if it’s immediately detrimental to our business and we may lose a fee. This has happened in the past and even though it’s not the ideal situation, I’m really proud of this policy. Here’s our approach to ethical recruitment…

Challenge Discrimination & Don’t Work with A**holes

Unfortunately, we still come up against some biases from time to time, so we make a point of pushing back on these where we see them or, in extreme cases, refusing to work with clients who don’t have strong enough ethics. This means we‘re protecting our candidates from clients who won’t be good employers.

We’re always upfront and clear that our shortlist will include the best candidates for the role—that’s what we’re here to do. For example, we previously worked with a client looking for temporary admin support for a month and they were specific that they were looking for someone of a certain age. In response, we challenged their bias and asked them to trust our testing and vetting process to provide them with candidates who could do the job. As a result, we placed an amazing candidate who they wouldn’t have normally hired had it not been down to our process—and guess what? They asked them to stay on with a permanent offer. 

Tell the whole truth

There’s lying and there’s withholding information—both are as bad as each other. Before we even mention that there’s a new opportunity, we do our due diligence on the companies of clients we work with. That means speaking to their current teams, learning about the business and in general, just making sure that it’s a good place to work. Especially for personal assistants, they need to know more about the individual they’ll be assisting. It’s okay if that person and/or the work is going to be challenging, but it’s important that a candidate knows what to expect. 

For clients looking to hire, we also do due diligence on the candidates, with a mix of scientific-testing and face-to-face interviews to get a real understanding of the candidate beyond their CV and again, identify those who are either hiding information or presenting themselves in a way that doesn’t ring true (when it comes to recruitment, the ‘say yes, and learn how to do it later’ mantra is bullsh*t). This approach benefits both parties and because we invest in learning about the client, we can provide a really bespoke service and introduce candidates who don’t just tick the boxes but will actually excel in the role. 

There was a really great recent example of this: We were working with a teacher who had the perfect skill set for the job – diligence, patience, a planner and problem solver, however, this might not have been the sort of CV a client would expect when hiring an EA for a fast-growing, international FinTech firm. We presented the candidate and coached them, discussing how the skillset was transferable but the environment would be new, and we successfully placed them in a senior EA role which they are now excelling at 12 months later.

Recruit with discretion

Sometimes we work with high-profile clients who don’t want to publicly announce that they’re recruiting. Other clients are perhaps looking to restructure a current position. Candidates are looking for another role before leaving their current one. All of these scenarios require us to treat information as confidential at all times, no matter where we are and who we’re speaking to (you never know who could overhear.)

Treat clients and candidates with equal respect

We want our clients and candidates to feel important and noticed, which means we are respectful and available to them at all times. Our philosophy of treating our candidates with the same time and respect as clients means we have generated a strong client and candidate referral pipeline which creates a circular sales model. Many of our referrals come from candidates we have contact with but don’t even place, which we feel is a good indicator that we are doing something right.

Gather feedback & always offer a solution

If we were to place a candidate in just any role, collect a fee and disappear, we wouldn’t be living by ethical values. That’s why we check-in for three months to see how things are going. 

If we were to give up on a client or a candidate and not offer an alternative solution, just because the process isn’t as easy as first thought, we wouldn’t be living by ethical values then either. That’s why we stick by our clients and candidates to give them some form of help, even if the brief has changed. 

For example, if a candidate isn’t quite ready for a certain type of role, we offer career coaching, training and development to give them the best chance with future opportunities. If a client realises that a full-time PA isn’t right for them at that time, we introduce them to ibLE—our flexible personal assistant service, where they only pay for the hours they need. No matter what, we always go out of our way to help. 

At the end of the day, there’s a reason why this industry exists, even with platforms like LinkedIn and Indeed. Anyone can publish a job ad and hope for the best, but talent companies deliver (or should deliver) a service, otherwise, what’s the point in a recruitment fee? For us, part of ethical recruitment is simply acting as a fair, honest company—going above and beyond to deliver an exceptional service and change the industry for the better. 


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