Ethical Decisions: Crimial Histories in Business

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In October of 1998 I was one of ten managers responsible for hiring three new financial analysts for our firm. Our human resources department narrowed the original list of 400 applicants to a group of 20, who we agreed to personally interview for the jobs. The final three candidates would then be selected by a consensus vote among the ten hiring managers. We carefully deliberated for weeks on the specific job descriptions and the key attributes we desired. It was a tall order, but we knew we had a wealth of talent in the applicant pool and were eager to choose the best qualified candidates.

After the first exhaustive round of interviews, we easily narrowed our list of candidates down to five finalists, who were invited back for a final screening interview. Without the knowledge of the other hiring managers, an employee took the candidates' personal files home with her and discussed them with her husband, a local attorney.

She learned that one of the five finalists had recently been convicted of a misdemeanor drug charge. He was not required to disclose this information on the application, as it wasn't a felony conviction, and we would never have discovered it any other way. Yet we all knew about it prior to the second interview and feared that it would affect our perception of him.

I was challenged regarding what to do. Part of me wanted to decline to interview him, fearing that my anti-drug bias would alter my ability to evaluate him fairly. Three of my colleagues had already opted to do that, but agreed to hire him if the remaining interviewers felt he was the best qualified for the job. I didn't think I could make that determination without talking with him again. I wanted to give him a...