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Ethics Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

Ethics Interview Questions to Ask Candidates

Ethical standards are critical to the success of any organisation, yet it can be extraordinarily difficult to judge a candidate’s ethical standards during the interview process. Still, it’s crucial to ask ethics interview questions before you make your decision.

Hiring managers must know how to interview to find candidates with attitudes and characteristics that align with the company’s mission, vision and values.

Interviews that focus on more general ethical standards as well as industry issues and social norms for the local cultures in which the company operates will often yield more interesting—and informative—results.

Uncovering Ethical Standards

The biggest challenge in conducting an interview that includes a discussion about workplace ethics is getting a candidate to give honest and meaningful answers.

In any workplace, there may be several acceptable answers to an ethical issue, yet job candidates will be leery of responding in a way that reveals any ethical deviance to the hiring manager.

That makes a behavioural approach best when deciding what ethics interview questions to ask, says Patricia Harned, president of the Ethics Resource Centre, Arlington, Virginia.

“We know, if you ask people if they are ethical, they are going to say, ‘Yes,’” she says. “Behavioural questions tell you that the person was in a situation that they saw as ethics-related and tell you how they thought through the problem and what they did.”

Important Ethics Interview Questions to Ask

Use these nine interview questions to ask about workplace ethics along with interviewer tips from ethics experts during the recruiting process:

1. What do you believe compromises the ethical workplace?

This is a great lead-off question to talk about workplace ethics because it is general and lets you prompt the candidate with your own company values. For example, “Here at ABC Corp, we are accountable, confidential and stable. How do you define accountable, confidential and stable?”

2. Have you worked for a company that had a code of conduct, and did you have positive or negative experiences there?

This is one of the best ethics interview questions to open with because it allows the candidate a lot of leeway in their response.

3. Have you taken a course or had any training in business ethics?

This question is tailored to campus recruiting and interviews with recent university graduates, as well as employees with experience in large companies, where ethics training is often required of employees. What did the candidate recall from their training–how well did it sink in?

4. How does being an ethical individual differ from being an ethical corporation?

This is a tricky question because the answer is: “There is no difference,” says Nan DeMars, author of You have Got to be Kidding – How to Keep Your Job Without Losing Your Integrity. Employees’ individual values and morals have to match up with the company’s values, or the employee will be stressed, unhappy, unproductive and therefore likely to leave.

5. Would you ever lie for me?

This is one of the more direct ethics interview questions to ask. The response you are looking for with this question is: “I would never lie for you.” An employee who will not lie for you will not lie to you, DeMars says.

6. Tell me about a time that you were challenged ethically.

Don’t trust a candidate who says they have never faced an ethical challenge. You want a candidate who avoids misconduct, not someone who lies and says they have never done anything wrong, says Tim Mazur, COO of the Ethics and Compliance Officer Association. The right candidate’s answer might be: “I was part of a proposal team, and the marketing people inserted language that overstated what we were doing. I argued that we should not include the language, but I lost and it was left in. I signed off on the project.”

7. Did you see the ethics material on our website?

The point of this question is to see whether the job seeker considers ethics and corporate values important enough to include in his or her background research on your organisation, Mazur says. You might ask the candidate, “Which of our corporate values made an impression on you?”

8. I see you have worked with people from different cultures.

This question is especially important when the candidate will work in multicultural settings. If the candidate is from outside the US, be aware that in some cultures, “ethics” is translated into a word that is more about personal values, and you may do better using the word “integrity” when talking about workplace values, Mazur says. A great example questions is “What ethics and values did you find you had in common, and where did you differ?”

9. When you have had ethical issues arise at work, whom did you consult?

Here, you’re looking for an answer that shows the candidate took action by talking to a coworker or manager about their concern, or that they sought out other company resources, Harned says.

Few candidates are going to come right out and confess their past ethical mistakes. Knowing how to interview with behavioural questions will enable them to open up about their past experience, providing the hiring manager with a good sense of the person sitting in front of them, Harned says.

“Companies want ethical employees, but there’s only so much a business can do to encourage ethical behaviour,” she says. “We have to ensure that the hiring process takes into account people’s character and gives a good sense of who they are before we bring them into the company.”

Use Ethics Interview Questions to Shape Your Recruiting Strategy

The interview process is the best opportunity to assess a job candidate’s workplace ethics and experience. However, even when you are getting all the right answers, how do you know if a candidate is just saying what you want to hear? That is why it helps to have recruiting experts on your side. At Monster, we bridge the gap between job seekers and employers and can help you develop a recruiting strategy that delivers quality candidates. Get started today by posting a job listing for free on Monster.