Job Search Tools

Business Ethics

There are a few ethical issues related to the job search that you may not have encountered previously. Those dilemmas usually appear in this order:

Your resume, of course, should fully describe your skills and abilities, but it should not exaggerate or embellish in any way. Employers can and do request college transcripts and talk to references to verify the information you have provided. If inaccuracies are found, you will probably be rejected automatically or fired if you have already started work.

Travel expense reimbursement will become important to you when you start to schedule second and third interviews. When you schedule a follow-up interview, ask enough questions to make sure you know how you are to pay for your travel expenses and how you will be reimbursed. Most employers will anticipate these questions and have easy guidelines for you to follow.

You should ask for additional information if it is not provided or if you have special circumstances. If the interview is in the Chicago area, reasonable reimbursement would be tolls and parking, but what if you don't have a car? Will the company pay for a rental car? Probably. For limousine service? Probably not.

If the interview requires an overnight stay, reasonable expenses would include basic transportation, hotel, and meals. (Don't ask to be reimbursed for entertainment or side trips.) Most employers will make hotel reservations for you, but you will probably be expected to charge all expenses on a credit card and then submit your receipts for reimbursement. If you don't have a credit card or don't want to use it, be prepared to write checks or pay cash. Most employers will not send a cash advance; though it can't hurt to ask if you don't have the financial means to make the trip otherwise.

If you interview with more than one employer on the same trip, divide your expenses fairly among them. They will recognize and respect your honesty.

Do not continue to interview or consider other job offers after you accept employment.

Some new graduates are surprised to learn that to renege on . . . or take back . . . a job acceptance, is considered by employers to be not only highly unethical, but also a breach of contract.

The argument has been made by some students that the employers have "lots of other applicants" and that "after all, I have to take care of Number 1." This argument shows a lack of business sense. As soon as an employer fills a position, rejection letters are sent to the other applicants who then get busy accepting other jobs. Paperwork is generated to put the new hire on the payroll, begin the insurance coverage, get that person into the Social Security system, and so on. When the new hire then reneges on the offer, the employer has no alternative but to begin another search. Several thousand dollars and considerable time and effort - all wasted because someone didn't think through an important decision.

When you receive a job offer, you can expect to have a reasonable amount of time to make a decision, and most employers are willing to extend that time if you ask for it. Be specific about the extra time you need, and don't fail to meet the new deadline. Use that time to make sure that you are making a smart decision. Consider what will be expected of you on the job, clarify the terms of employment, and then, if you accept the position, cancel all other interviews and inform other potential employers that they should remove you from their list of applicants. If you don't see yourself being successful or happy with a job being offered, turn it down and continue to look for a good match.

Career Services staff members are familiar with these and other ethical issues related to your job search, so don't risk making an error in judgment - ask for advice.

Illegal questions

See the Career Services Guide or view the Illegal Questions handout for additional information about what may or may not be an illegal question and ideas for how to respond to personal or non-job-related questions.

If, after an interview, you believe that you were asked an illegal question, discuss your concerns with the Campus Recruiting coordinator or Career Services counselor. You can file a formal complaint if you feel the situation warrants it, or at least find out how you could handle a similar situation in the future.