So Geoff Hoon, Stephen Byers and Patricia Hewitt have been caught going for interviews, whilst currently in the employ of the British Parliament.  None are presently Ministers of State, but all are serving MP’s with, presumably, a full workload until 6th May.  With time running out on their current contract, these three have taken a little time out to attend interviews for new jobs, and been filmed for the newspapers in the process of selling out to the highest bidder.

This, of course, is the perfect opportunity for the British Press to fulminate royally at the outrageous betrayal of trust, and downright greed of these people.  How dare they even consider what they will be doing, until after they have left our employ.  Surely they owe us their every waking hour whilst they are Members of Parliament?  We own them!

Of course in recruitment, we see this supposed betrayal on an everyday basis.  Moreover, we often have to counsel candidates who find their loyalties torn.  The basic truth, however, is that as so very few people leave a job before looking for a new one, that there will be the inevitable overlap.  During the workday, these candidates are totally loyal to their employers, but once in an interview for a rival company find themselves in the role of a double agent.  Turning traitor is a strong way to describe it, but is all too often true.  In an interview situation, who among us would refuse to answer questions, that would betray the confidence of their current bosses? It shouldn’t be done, but in an interview candidates are trying to make themselves appear as valuable and as knowledgeable as possible, in order to impress and secure an offer.  The convention of interviews, is that you always appear to want the job, even though you haven’t yet decided; and in that frame of mind, will be more forthcoming with details than you ought to be.

I’ve debriefed countless interviewees who have regretted being quite so candid, especially if they don’t then get the job.  They’ve betrayed their employer, for no benefit whatsoever.  Conversely, I know several employers who regularly interview for fictitious jobs, with the sole intent of gathering vital market information.

It’s not discussed often, possibly because we all feel a little embarrassed to have been part of it, but it remains a key part of the recruitment cycle.  A betrayed lover is usually most upset that you’ve been carrying on behind their back, without their knowing.  An employer’s first thought, when you hand in your resignation, is precisely the same. What secrets have you already passed on to countless interviewers?  You cannot be sacked for attending an interview with a rival, but many employers would view it as an act of gross misconduct.  And yet they have to accept it, as it is so very normal.

So the situation of Messrs Hoon, Byers and Hewitt is not so strange. This entrapment by the British Press only serves to throw a light on an everyday occurrence.  An everyday betrayal.

Stephen O'Donnell is a lifelong recruiter, internet enthusiast, fadgadget and peripatetic writer.

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