Career-Building Ethics – An important issue even before you land your first job

A lot has been happening recently in the accounting world, and much of the turmoil has to do with professional ethics. Companies are taking a long, hard look at their staff members, and experts are suggesting more CPE courses be required in the subject. On-the-job ethics seem to be getting all of the spotlight, but it's important to remember that professional ethics begin long before you ever start your first job.

Students and other job seekers need to start establishing first-class ethics long before graduation, but it can be especially challenging during that first job search. Here, we offer some suggestions that can help.

It all begins with the resume. Do not lie on your resume. Do not stretch the truth on your resume. Do not even include a “harmless” little white lie. Get the idea? In the long run, lies on your resume – no matter how severe – can make you look very bad. Simply be honest and straightforward in resumes, cover letters and your portfolio. Above all, a hiring manager is looking for an honest and respectful employee. From an employer's perspective, if a candidate is willing to lie on a resume, what might they lie about while they're working for you?

What are your true intentions? If someone calls you in for an interview and you have absolutely no desire to work for the company, don't waste their time. It's not fair to use the interview as a “practice” run, or to get a free lunch out of the company. If you accept an interview that doesn't interest you at all, someone else who really wants the job might not have the chance to meet with the company, and the employer is losing precious time and money in their search for employees. Simply explain you are pursuing other opportunities and thank them for contacting you.

Manage the interview with class. Though your resume is the first impression an employer has of you, a face-to-face meeting often provides the more permanent impression they carry with them through the hiring period. Honesty is just as important in person as it is on paper. Don't mislead the interviewer about past experiences or the things you are looking for in a job; offer them the same honesty you would like returned. An interviewer appreciates honesty and an open dialogue, and you'll also be much better off if you're honest with yourself about your own experiences and goals.

It's important to remember that the interviewer is just as responsible for his or her behavior as you are. If you are asked a question that you don't consider appropriate-whether it's a personal question or a question about other candidates-state that you would prefer not to answer, or would prefer to discuss your own qualifications rather than those of others. You deserve the same respect and honesty that your interviewer does.

Professional ethics should be a priority as you begin your career. Employers will appreciate (and are looking for) candidates who are honest, straightforward and respectful, especially in today's corporate climate. Not to mention the fact that you want to work for a company with the same ideals!

Professional ethics provide a support structure for many of the business decisions you will make in the future, everything from choosing a new job to completing a client project. Now is the time to start thinking about how you want to succeed. If you build your career around a standard of solid professional ethics, you'll win respect from your peers and the support upon which you can build lasting professional success.

Sarah Self is a staff writer for CareerBank.com and specializes in writing about career development and human resource issues, especially those related to the accounting & finance industries.

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