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What is an Unethical Recruitment Practice in 2023? [10 Examples]

A hiring practice is considered unethical if isn’t transparent and proper (such as causing a job candidate to be misinformed about what the position entails or what their pay will be); or if you are using varying criteria to judge one candidate from another (for example, if you don’t hire someone because you don’t think their in-person interview went well, but then you hire someone else based solely off their resume).

Ethics are the principles or standards that guide day-to-day business in accordance with established corporate values. Among ethical values are trust, honesty, respect, and responsibility. Unethical behaviors range from sharing confidential information without consent to charging candidates for placement services.

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As a recruiter, you are tasked with seeking the best interest of candidates who trust you with their future career, as well as client companies who rely on you to find the very best person for the opportunity at hand. Indeed, it can be difficult to tell the difference between what can simply be considered unfair and what is illegal.

All illegal hiring practices are unfair, but not all unfair hiring practices are illegal. You can see why this might be confusing. To be illegal, a hiring practice must discriminate against a job candidate in a way that violates their civil rights or that violates labor, disability, or other such related laws.

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A good number of companies have a specific recruitment process in place to help avoid discrimination. The problem is that some of these processes may still include areas that could potentially be deemed unfair.

Although not illegal, unfair hiring practices can affect a company’s reputation, and this can make it more difficult to attract high-quality candidates in the long run. Also note that it can discourage candidates from taking the job if they feel like they were misled.

This is why it is very crucial that you analyze your hiring practices to make sure your hiring process is as fair and balanced as needed.

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Examples of Unethical Hiring Practices

There are many unethical hiring practices, and although they aren’t necessarily illegal, ethical recruiters and search consultants don’t engage in them. These unethical hiring practices include;

  1. Asking Candidates To Pay For Services

Note that ethical recruiters, those who have a proven track record of success, do not need to charge candidates. This is because they earn a comfortable living. Aside from that, they recognize that top candidates are a valuable commodity!

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Always remember that you do not attract top candidates by charging them for your services. They are not going to pay you. So, if you are charging job seekers for your services, then chances are that they are not top candidates. This is why you might not be making a lot of placements in the first place.

  1. Altering the Job Description

An ethical recruiter is very clear about what position they are hiring for. A job candidate looking to further their career may assume that you are offering them a job that’s higher up than their current position based on the job description, when in reality, it is not.

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They will not be pleased when they realize they are moving laterally or if they are overqualified for the position because it is actually lower than they assumed it was.

This is especially true if you reveal what their salary would be and it is much lower than what they are being paid at their current place of employment. If this happens, the candidate is likely going to turn the job down and they are not going to have a good impression of your company, especially since you not only wasted their time (and yours) but they may feel like you tried to trick them.

  1. Advertising Non-Existing Jobs

Place misleading job advertisement is indeed one of the topmost unethical hiring practices in the world. This includes misrepresenting the requirements of a particular position. It also refers to working conditions and the current or projected state of the organization.

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Why do this? To harvest resumes, of course. Then that same recruiter can contact the candidates later on when they have actual job orders and positions to peddle.

  1. Presenting An “Expiring Offer” To A Candidate

A recruiter sends an offer to a candidate and the candidate only has a limited amount of time to make a decision. If they don’t, the offer will be rescinded. Did the hiring authority state the time limit? Nope. The recruiter, in their infinite wisdom, is hoping to pressure the candidate into accepting the offer.

Note that a recruiter is more likely to try this if they’ve altered the candidate’s resume by eliminating contact information in an attempt to control the lines of communication.

  1. Faking A Relationship With An Employer

Sometimes, the recruiter tells candidates that there are premium job opportunities available at prestigious Company C. The candidates, who would love to work at Company C, trip all over themselves to give their resumes to the recruiter. At this point, the recruiter, in turn, tries to use the resumes to market MPCs (Most Placeable Candidates). If Company C tells the recruiter to “go pound salt,” the recruiter then makes something up to tell the candidates.

  1. Discrediting A Candidate’s Current Employer

This tends to happen when the recruiter contacts a candidate and basically tells them something about their employer that is not true. (“I hear they are going bankrupt.”) Why? To undermine the confidence that the candidate has in their employer and prompt them to look elsewhere! Is what they are saying true? No, and that is an unethical recruitment practice.

  1. Altering A Candidate’s Resume

If you think altering a job description was bad, this is even worse. Job candidates are always asked to be wary of a recruiter who asks for a resume in a format in which they can easily alter it. Do they tell the candidate that they are altering their resume?

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No, they do not. Their only objective is to get candidates in front of hiring managers for interviews. If a candidate needs a “resume enhancement,” so be it.

  1. Rusing

Rusing occurs when a recruiter assumes an alias during a phone call to a potential client or candidate, most often to convince a gatekeeper that their call to a senior corporate leader is personal, confidential, and/or urgent. Simply put, rusing is trickery and impersonation.

It is regularly used as a tool to add names to a recruiter’s contact sheet, generating leads that might not otherwise be easily found through a simple search on LinkedIn.

  1. Double Rusing

As a recruiter at an agency, you don’t recruit candidates from clients who pay you to fill other jobs. It is just common courtesy and common sense.

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However, there are unethical recruiters who ignore those standards. The double ruse starts when a recruiter calls a prospective candidate that’s currently employed at a client site, introducing themselves as (insert phony name), and a “search consultant” from a competing firm.

The recruiter feels out that person’s willingness to shop around the job market, obtains their information, and calls back a month later…but this time under no alias.

Therefore, the recruiter circumvents the potential conflict of interest by claiming to have been referred to the candidate by the imaginary “search consultant.” Some recruiters are clueless enough to blindly poach from their own, skipping the alias and emphatically shooting themselves in both feet.

  1. Physical Attractiveness

It is unfortunate but a good number of recruiters do sometimes base their hiring decisions on the attractiveness of the candidates. For example, if the job is between two candidates who have somewhat similar skill sets and experience, a recruiter may choose the more attractive one.

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Studies have shown that job candidates who are considered attractive do typically get more call backs than those that may be considered less attractive.


It should be an absolute priority to prevent illegal hiring practices from taking place; however, it can be a challenge to eliminate all potentially unfair hiring practices.

However, you should have a very structured hiring process in place and your recruiters need to be carefully trained. Many unfair hiring practices can be performed without the intention of ill will towards job candidates, yet they still happen.