Rights and Responsibilities as a Job Seeker

When we think of an ethical job search most minds jump to unethical hiring practices such as illegal interview questions or discrimination on the part of the employer. What exactly are your rights and responsibilities as a job seeker? What ethical obligations should you consider?

  1. What to expect from employers: The recruitment process should be fair and equitable to all applicants. What should students expect?
    • Confidentiality: Employers are expected to maintain confidentiality of all applicant information, regardless of the source, including personal knowledge, written records, and computer data bases. An employer should not disclose information about an applicant to another organization without prior written consent, unless necessitated by health or safety considerations.
    • Accurate information: Employers are expected to provide accurate information about both their employment opportunities, and their organization, including benefits, advancement opportunities and responsibilities of their employees.
    • Testing information: Employers should inform the candidate of any testing, in advance. This includes the purpose of the test and the policy regarding disclosure of test results.
    • Nondiscrimination: Employers should not discriminate in their recruitment activities and are expected to follow equal employment opportunity and affirmative action principles.
    • Communication: Once you are considered a candidate, employers should inform you of your status in the hiring process and communicate hiring decisions within the agreed upon time frame.
    • Undue pressure: Employers should provide the candidate with a reasonable amount of time to make a decision about accepting an offer. Generally two weeks is considered reasonable. However, you may request a deadline extension (if you are actively interviewing) to complete other scheduled interviews, so you can make the best decision for your career and for your future employer.
      • Once the offer is accepted, job searching must cease.
      • It is improper for employers to pressure you to revoke your acceptance of another job offer.
    • Fair Treatment: If economic conditions change and an employer finds it necessary to revoke a job offer that a candidate has accepted, the organization should (based on NACE’s Principles Committee) provide the following:
      • Reimburse candidate for expenses incurred in the acceptance of employment (travel, relocation expenses).
      • Provide services to aid candidate in securing other employment.
      • In some cases, provide candidate a stipend or short-term financial assistance.
  2. What employers should expect from a candidate: Integrity is a quality employers seek in applicants. By simply adhering to ethical principles in the job search process, a candidate demonstrates they possess this characteristic.
    • Be honest: Provide accurate information about academic work, job experience, and duties performed.
      • Information on a resume should be verifiable. Employers will check a candidate's credentials, including a request to look at transcripts.
      • Employers will contact references. Make sure references know they will be contacted and check contact information to ensure that it is correct.
      • Lying at any stage during the job-search process is grounds for elimination, whether it's a fabrication on a resume or fibbing during a tough interview question.
      • This does not include disclosing specific information about your job search process such as job offers you have received, salary offers or company interviews. Feel free to offer a broad statement such as "I have interviewed with employers in the banking industry" or "The salary offers I have received have been in the $35,000 to $40,000 range." Specifics may be avoided.
    • Interview genuinely: Arrange interviews with organizations you would consider working for and whose requirements you meet.
      • "Practice" interviewing with an organization is misleading and costs the employer both time and money.
      • Utilize the Career Development Center's mock interview. Videotaped sessions allow you to see and hear where improvement is needed.
      • Attend the CMU Career Boot Camp where employers volunteer to conduct "practice" interviews with applicants.
      • Attend the Career EXPO, the MOJOE, or other career fairs for practice talking with employers.
    • Adhere to schedules: show up on time to all interviews whether on campus or at the organization.
      • If you can't make an interview, call as soon as possible (contact information is very important to have available).
      • If the interview is on campus, the empty slot might have taken a time slot from another student who really does want to meet with the organization.
      • Last-minute schedule changes, especially no-shows, can hurt college-employer relations, jeopardizing further campus-recruiting events for future students.
      • A "no-show" reflects poorly on the applicant. This is the time to make lasting good impressions, not one that says, "This person is unreliable."
      • Arriving late may cause other interviews to be moved back to compensate for the late start. Show consideration and be punctual.
    • Cyberspace Image: Remember any public information may be used to evaluate your suitability for employment this would include a personal website, a blog, or any social networking sites. It is becoming more accepted for employers to check a candidate's cyberspace image.
    • Communicate: Don't keep employers hanging; communicate your acceptance or refusal as promptly as possible, so that other candidates might be notified. Asking for two weeks to make a decision is an acceptable time frame. However, the employer may insist on a shorter deadline especially in fields like Marketing.
    • Fair reimbursement: When an employer offers to pay reimburse for gas and travel expenses, may sure your accurate and reasonable.
    • Accepting a job offer: Once an offer is accepted you should have every intention of honoring the commitment.
      • Accepting an offer only as a precautionary measure is misleading to the employer.
      • Accept the offer in writing and keep a copy in your files along with any other contracts or information from the organization.
      • Withdraw from the recruiting process once you have accepted an offer.
      • Inform employers that are actively considering you for a position to take you out of the running.
      • Notify the Career Development Center and fill out the Future Plans Survey.


Information from NACE: Job Choices for Business and Liberal Arts Students: 2008