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Job Applicants Should Ask about Potential Employers' Ethics

The mailbag contains a terrific question about how an outsider may assess the ethical culture of a company. This is prompted by my perhaps overly simplistic advice that the best way to avoid vexing ethical issues is to pick an ethical company. The questioner recognizes, however, that a company's ethical culture may not be apparent to a job applicant. Accordingly, I have encouraged job applicants--particularly general counsel hopefuls--to use the interview process to conduct this critical diligence.

This advice has evoked two understandable responses. First, some have recoiled at the idea of discussing ethics in an interview setting when such questions may seem odd, probing, uncomfortable or suggestive of a problem. I accept that raising ethics and integrity during an interview may be uncomfortable and perhaps should be left for just before you sign an offer letter. However, if you are unwilling to have a dialogue about the ethical culture of a company, then you may find yourself forging through a muddle of ethical dilemmas that threaten your career and, as we have unfortunately witnessed, your liberty.

Brian Martin

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