Trust me on this, I do not like writing pieces on recording a telephone case interview because I really have better things to do than call out the behavior of a minority of readers. And it is just a minority. Yet, Firmsconsulting defines itself by its excessively high standards of conduct so this is worth briefly discussing and sharing as a teaching point for others.

Over the last 3 weeks, no less than 16 readers have written to me asking for guidance on improving their performances in case interviews. With all the innocence of a baby glibly eating Purity, they offered to share a recording of the phone interview.

Do you see the problem? I hope you do.

I would like to remind readers of a few points. This is not an ethics discussion. We only need to have a discussion about being ethical when the law is not clear about an act and we, therefore, need to use our judgment to decide if it is right or wrong.

The law has been clearly written about the surreptitious recording of telephone conversations and it is quite clear: recording a conversation without the consent of the other party is a felony offence.

Not a childish prank.

Not a mistake.

Not a misdemeanor.

It is a felony offence.

Let that sink in.

I agree that it is easy to record a call and maybe you should be allowed to do it. Yet, neither the ease of executing an act nor your personal disagreement with standing criminal codes should allow you to ignore the latter.

Moreover, just because others are doing it does not make it right. The law does not regard mass stupidity as a reasonable defense and all it takes is one firm to prosecute this to make you a poster child for singular stupidity.

As I rightfully pointed out to one reader who wrote in and generously offered me to listen to his call, I am not sure I want to help someone who nonchalantly breaks the law to gain access to the highest corridors of corporate power. Scratch that, I am very sure.

One can only imagine what they will do with client information to accelerate their careers.

In hindsight, I may have been too lenient in the way we handled this. I do not expect readers to not make mistakes. I do not expect readers to be perfect. You will make a lot of mistakes and that is perfectly normal. In fact, your life will be a tapestry of fairly dumb mistakes. That is how we learn.

It is, however, not acceptable to willingly and knowingly commit such a breach of the criminal code and the values we teach. You can be better than that and you should be better than that. If you do not like the law, sue someone and let it wind its way to the Supreme Court.

Whenever, I see someone with great promise make this mistake, I make them read this article.

Promise is easily destroyed when the greed of success takes control of your brain. If you need to commit a felony to become a management consultant, then maybe, just maybe, management consulting is not for you. Management is not about the analytics. It is about honorably deploying the analytics.

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Comments

2 responses to Ethical vs Criminal: Recording a telephone interview

  1. Thanks Ben.

  2. In the United States:
    18 U.S. Code § 2511 – Interception and disclosure of wire, oral, or electronic communications prohibited
    http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2511

    In Canada:
    http://www.efc.ca/pages/law/cc/cc.184.html
    http://www.efc.ca/pages/law/cc/cc.183.1.html

    I am not an attorney but the idea of “one party notification” appears to be misinterpreted as permission to tape phone calls. It does not appear so. 183.1 says the communication must be originated by more than one person (does not apply to single person making a call) or received by more than one person (does not apply to a one on one phone call.) Thus, in Canada under 184.1, imprisonment up to five years is a possibility.

    Ethically, the question is, would you like someone doing this to you? If the answer is no, then don’t do it. Ethics erode at the margins almost imperceptibly, bit by bit. One must vigilant against it.

    see Kevin Coyne discussing @32:05 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFiqnlNocD8 for very insightful commentary.

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