I always wondered if a Headhunter with a christian or any other faith background find themselves questioning their morals when pursuing a high profile candidate using unethical headhunting techniques like 'lying through their teeth' when getting past the gatekeeper and then subsequently probing the company until you find your target?

What are your thoughts...is headhunting ethical?

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If your intent is to do something unethical AFTER you get past the gate keeper then yes, you are acting unethically. As recruiters we are presenting opportunities to candidates that they will either perceive as possibly better than their current situation or not, in which case hopefully they can recommend someone else for the position we're trying to fill. If a company is providing an environment where the employees are for the most part happy then the company has little to fear from recruiters. If on the other hand the employer has a toxic, non-competitive, or for some other reason, negative environment then we are possibly offering alternatives that the candidate is free to pursue or not. One of the only ways we could be acting unethically in this situation would be not presenting an honest representation of our client to the potential candidate, and if we need to misrepresent our client we need to ask ourselves "Is this a client I want to represent?".
Yes, headhunting in its purest and most honest form is ethical. I've never understood why one associates headhunting with lying. I do not believe that headhunting requires lying. No way. If the "gatekeeper" asks who I am and why I'm calling I tell the truth. No lies, no ruse, simply the truth. That said, if I'm blocked, I'll find another way to my target that does not require a compromise of ethics, and...I will reach the individual. Always have.
If the headhunter is successful, then something is not right or satisfying in the company where we recruit our candidate. Most passive candidates are too busy "making a living" to make a change on their own. Let's face it humans need to be wanted and like being pursued.

We make organisations better by allowing Candidates’ careers to grow at the same time.
We don’t coerce people into roles that aren’t right for them. So when we do place someone our conscience should be clear. We positively impact peoples lives daily.
Clearly we're "breaking into" companies trying to purposely entice their best people away for a fee. The answer to this question is personal and subjective as to how one regards the Headhunting process.

If one's focus is it harms companies they'll unlikely be able to personally justify their actions likely feeling it's unethical. If one's focus is it gives people an option to better themselves hearing about other opportunities, then it's likely they'd see it as ethical.

I'm a Jew and been recruiting/sourcing for 29 years. Knowing no company wants to be recruited from always makes me queasy while doing so. I still feel awful when calling an unhappy to be called prospect or threatened with legal action when discovered. I still feel great when I've made a quality connection or placed a person happy that I found them. As long as recruiting remains legal I'm on the ethical side.

Just my two cents.

Bill Josephson
Ive been recruiting for 5 years - andhave never used these unethical techniques.
You're asking 2 different questions. In response to the title and closing question as to whether or not headhunting is ethical, the answer is yes, it is. Just as applying for another job while you are currently employed is ethical.

Does someone question their morals when they "lie through their teeth"? My off the cuff remark is that the question, if truly internally asked, was answered as soon as they began to lie. The difficulty that I have with your question is the lack of clarity and specificity. Am I splitting hairs? Picking a nit? Yes. But then, so does your question. There is far too much information and context absent in your question to offer a very viable response.
Paul - I think your question is not related to the profession of headhunting at all - it can be applied to any job: "is lying to achieve the goals in your job ethical?". The answer to that question is "no". How can you start a proper, long-lasting relationship (in this case with a potential candidate or even a client) based on a lie - pretty difficult I would say.

The profession of headhunting is essentially ethical - it is how you do it (or any other job) that will determine whether you are ethical. Ask any investment banker! (sorry, cheap shot)

As to the "faith" factor - the question of ethics is not limited to a person with "faith" - it comes down to what your values and beliefs are (irrespective of your religion or lack thereof). The sooner the world recognises a person's fundamental beliefs and values are actually more imprtant than their religious "brand", the better we all will be - a lot of nasty things have been done over the centuries in the name of religion (and are still being done, whether it is improperly invading other countries or a suicide bombing). Sorry, I got a little off track there...
I’m tempted to dump all over this question – before becoming a financial and legal recruiter in Chicago, I spent 30 years in advertising as a copywriter (financial, pharma and consumer) – so I can be reeeely critical of mushy writing and thinking; with all due respect, the question is mushy.

But it is interesting to ponder what tactics are ethical or appropriate or fair in recruiting.

As recruiters, we’re paid to perform a service just like the people who perform executions in prisons. If you direct your life using a religious compass, and I realize a lot people do, you can’t do either job; thou shall not kill, thou shall not bear false witness, right? (BTW: Shouldn’t Christian be capitalized?)

I think the question can be tightened up by asking at what point are tactics unfair or inappropriate or harmful and I believe the answer could be based on the Golden Rule (also knows as the Mom Rule, the “How would you like it if someone did that to you?” rule).

Business and professional people know recruiters exist and that we make money by tempting those individuals with offers. The people who support those individuals know that too. Whole industries such as LindedIn and FaceBook and Spoke and who-knows-what-else exist to help people to make connections – and connections is our business. So telling a fib to a person in order to get information is just another tactic (in this case, out-smarting someone) used to reach a goal. Was any harm done? Don’t think so.

I don’t worry about being unethical because I’ll lose my job and my credibility if I am. I do worry about being out-smarted and out-maneuvered, neither are ethical issues. Besides, the recruiting industry (ASA) and the government have standards we have to follow, or at least be aware of (right, so we can break them).

Now let me be really base: Recruiters are sometimes called flesh peddlers – you know business pimps. When we’re trying to develop new business, we usually present our business credentials and one or more attractive candidates. Once we get a new client, we then become pimps for the company and try to lure likely candidates into their fold. And we get paid for that, just like Sidney Barrows Biddle, the Mayflower Madam.

We’re procurers, we’re pimps. Get over it. Don’t take yourself too seriously but do take your job and your clients and your candidates very seriously because they help you put food on the table. That’s why we do what we do. Personally, I love recruiting and I look forward each day going to work, frustrating as it can be.
and RBC finally "grows up" and becomes the the new bully pulpit...

KarenM / Hirecentrix.com said:
My thoughts...
Wow, some very interesting responses and I am not sure my two cents are necessary...
Really, who is still lying in the actual recruitment process?
My early sourcing days were filled with half truths: "I'm conducting a survey", "I'm getting ready to send out some invitations." "I am updating my rolodex..." ha ha...etc.... you get the idea.

Honesty and trust are two different things... There are many honest people that I don't trust. Trust is given with much vulnerability. Being honest does not make you trustworthy...., It just makes you honest, that's all.

Sometimes, it is difficult to see that good is not the absence of evil, evil is the absence of good. For instance, light is not the absence of dark, but dark is the absence of light.... get it?

We all have our principles and our own set of ethics - what we have lived through in this life has created these guidelines, so they are not necessarily transferable..., very important to remember when addressing a slew of people you don't know...

With so many different people from different backgrounds, different beliefs and in or from different parts of the world, how can ONLY one way be the right way? Think about it...
It is an interesting question. At the end of the day I ask myself if I did "lie" to anyone. For me I try to use the approach of asking for a specific personand telling the gatekeeper that I want to talk with them about a "technical issue." And this is the truth... my recruiting is for technology professionals!

If I have lied, I confess it to God, receive His forgiveness & move on. Thankfully, as a Christian I believe my God forgives me - this is a true blessing!
I find it fascinating that you have predesginated morals only to those of a faith based background without even making it the topic of your discussion.

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