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Ask the Ethics Guy: The Art of the Successful Job Interview

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may21homespunweb.jpgBy Bruce Weinstein, Ph.D.

RISMEDIA, May 21, 2008-(MCT)-It’s graduation season, and this means it’s time for job hunting. Joining the pool of applicants will be a lot of people who have been downsized, fired or who found their previous employment to be less than satisfying.

Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned veteran of the job search, it’s helpful to get advice about the all-important but nerve-wracking experience known as the job interview.

Most of the articles on the subject are written from a psychological or legal perspective. However, ethical issues are at the heart of any job, so keeping ethical principles in mind during the interview will help you get – and keep – the job you really want.

Here are five simple rules to follow:

It never ceases to amaze me how many people respond to my own job offerings with an endless discussion of why the position will help them: “This job is perfect for me, because I need something that will offer me flexibility.” An employee should be concerned, first and foremost, with helping the company, not the other way around.

Few of us are good liars, and this is a good thing. When an interviewer asks you something to which you don’t know the answer, it’s much better to admit this than to pretend otherwise. Also, misrepresenting yourself on your resume in any way is a big mistake, not just because it will come back to haunt you (since it may not), but simply because it’s wrong.


The most fundamental ethical principle of all, Do No Harm, applies to how you treat yourself as well as others. Resist the impulse to say something that would make you look foolish, incompetent, or naive. If you’re not sure about how something will be taken, it’s best to leave it unsaid.

Your prospective employer may ask you about previous jobs and why you left, or why you want to leave your current one. If a poor relationship with a boss or colleague was a contributing factor, it’s better to say something like, “My supervisor and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of projects,” rather than, “He was the biggest jerk I’ve ever worked for.” Criticism at its best centers on what a person has done, not on who a person is.

Personal attacks make you look petty, and that could be a reason for you to be passed over for a position. Also, bear in mind that professional circles can be small and tight-knit; it’s entirely possible your interviewer knows your previous boss or colleagues. You don’t want to acquire a reputation for being petty, vindictive, or tactless.

This last rule is the most important. Before you even apply for a job, do some soul searching and find out what it is you’re really looking for. To realize a company’s mission successfully, you have to know what your own mission in life is, and why you want to devote considerable time and energy to that organization. Honesty applies not just to how you deal with your prospective employer; it also applies to how you deal with yourself.

Yes, it’s a cutthroat world out there, and finding work now is probably more difficult than any time in the last few years. But that’s no reason to throw ethics out the window. In fact, I hope I’ve shown just the opposite _ that keeping ethics front and center is the best way to be successful.

For more about the author, visit www.TheEthicsGuy.com.
© 2008, Bruce Weinstein, Ph.D.

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