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Transparency is a popular term in business today.  It is critical for all aspects of leadership and in compliance, but it is especially important in recruiting.

transparencyOver the years I have amassed quite a collection of stories where candidates, or organizations, were less than transparent, I am sad to report.  The consequences for such behavior can be severe.

For employers not to be transparent because they fear that disclosure will reflect badly on the company or the leadership team, or because they do not want to alienate (scare off) a prized candidate, is never appropriate.  This could do enormous harm to a candidate’s career reputation and even greatly impact his or her personal life.  Regrettably, I have heard those stories as well.

For candidates not to be forthcoming — or for the potential employer to be less than robust in their vetting process — can also cause financial harm and significant embarrassment.

A recruiter who fails to disclose a physician’s alcohol or drug addiction because of the pressure to earn a fee, or the hospital executive who turns a blind eye to the obvious warning flags because of pressure to meet budgeted revenue targets, is disturbing. When patients come to harm because of a lack of transparency, it is shameful.

Recruiting is not an open and shut process and mistakes are made, but legitimately missing something, and overtly withholding material information or failing to perform due diligence, are not even close to being the same thing.

As a recruiter, I am lucky.  People tell me things.  Perhaps it is due to interviewing skills I learned as an investigative reporter in my earlier work life.  Or it could be that I ask, straight out, is there something I need to know in order to be transparent to the candidates, or to my client.

Have I missed things in the past?  Absolutely.  You cannot work in this industry and not have an occasional mistake.  Thankfully, mine have been few and very far between, and I would like to think that I have learned from my mistakes.  That, and on the candidate side, a three-hour face-to-face interview affords ample opportunity to glean things that you simply cannot discover in telephone or videoconference interviews, or an interview over dinner.

Candidates and employers must agree that transparency is a shared responsibility.  If both sides ask the hard questions, not just the polite, politically correct ones, you have a better chance at achieving transparency.

Here are some key questions/strategies:


  • Is there anything in your background that, if it became public, would cause embarrassment for you, our organization and possibly limit your effectiveness?  (This typically opens the door and good people will usually disclose a prior DUI, treatments, or mistakes that led to termination, none of which are necessarily deal killers)
  • When we speak to former employers — former colleagues — at the appropriate time, what will they tell us about your performance?  (That is a truth alert question to the candidate:  be on notice, we may actually talk to people who are not on your reference list)
  • If there are gaps in the employment record, recruiters need to drill down on the causes.  If they are recent, they need to ask for references — peers and subordinates — who will speak to those issues
  • Employers should conduct in-depth background checks — we go back 15 years and are looking at court documents, the driving record, independently verifying employment dates, etc.  We are concerned with patterns of performance, behavior or outright deception

Executive Candidates:

  • Are the organization’s finances in stable condition?  How many days of cash on hand do you have?  Would you mind sharing year-to-day financials or the most recent audit report?
  • What is your current debt rating?  Do you anticipate any changes that could impact the organization’s access to capital?
  • Have there been any material changes in the market — physician defections, acquisitions, new competitors, etc. that would impact the organization’s performance and/or affect the performance deliverables?
  • Describe the culture of the organization in terms of what is sacred, how decisions get made, and the tone and style of the key members of the senior team.

Remember, most candidates who get the sack inside of two years were not pushed out because they lacked the credentials or experience but because they did not fit with the culture, or because they ran headlong into a major surprise — owing to a lack of transparency — that changed everything.

A final note to candidates, the longer a recruiter’s placement guarantee, the more they are invested in your success by digging deep to truly understand the employer’s culture, versus just getting enough information to close the deal.