Job-Matching Website Leads to Conflicts of Interest

Recruiting websites can be a great way for employers to connect with job-hunting college students in a central location. Yet for one college student at Canada's McGill University, one of these sites led to a conflict of interest charge that almost cost him his job.

Computer job search

The Conflict of Interest

Last fall, McGill University student and Students' Society Council President Zach Newburgh signed a confidentiality agreement with McGill alumnus Jean de Brabant that led to a conflict of interest. Newburgh claims that de Brabant had been pressuring him to discuss a promising new student service but, in order to hear the details, he was required to sign the agreement.

The service in question was Jobbook.com, a social networking site that matches college students with possible employers. In de Brabant's vision, Newburgh would contact student leaders at other prestigious universities and recruit them. As their relationship developed, Newburgh committed to traveling to universities in the U.S. and Great Britain to meet with students. Newburgh and de Brabant visited Harvard, Yale, Princeton, the California Institute of Technology and Oxford University, among others. In addition to these trips, Newburgh received a financial stake in Jobbook.com.

The conflict of interest stems from the secretive nature of the endeavor. Both the purpose of Newburgh's trips and his monetary incentive were kept secret from the student group at McGill during the 4-month period encompassed by the confidentiality agreement. When that period was up, Newburgh informed the executive committee of his arrangement with the website. Yet by that point, he'd already accepted money to promote a service on behalf of his standing as President without the knowledge of the rest of the Students' Society Council.

Harvard at night

The Fallout

In early February, the McGill Students' Society Council voted to publicly censure Newburgh for his involvement with Jobbook.com. Though the group nearly decided to remove Newburgh from office, he wasn't completely lacking in support. Some members saw the potential benefits of the website for McGill students. Newburgh's position was the relationship with Jobbook.com could provide McGill students with strong job prospects that might otherwise be a challenge to obtain.

Since the controversy arose, Newburgh has surrendered his financial stake in Jobbook.com. He also is currently trying to salvage his leadership position while working with a bitterly divided executive group. Through all of this Newburgh has remained defiant, claiming that no harm was done to the student group.

Online job sites and social networking have changed the way people look for jobs. For more on this subject, check out our article on technology etiquette for job hunters

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