Framing. We all do it. In order to get what we want, we take information and communicate it so as to please, mollify, or otherwise woo the recipient of the information in order to increase the chances that the outcome will result in our favor. As with many other ethical dilemmas, a clear boundary might exist (i.e., outright lying to someone, although “Santa is real, my child” hardly seems unethical to many), but it is surrounded by a vast hazy shade of grey. For example, can omitting information equate to lying? Sure, but is that always the case?
“Who baked these cookies?”
“I did,” says the guy that cut open the tube of dough, arranged globs on a flat piece of metal, and inserted everything into a hot oven.
A recent article from PoetsandQuants.com delves into the common practice of individuals undergoing thorough background checks by third party companies after acceptance into an MBA program. This check occurs before the “all clear” is officially declared by the institution and the applicant becomes an active student. Basically, an applicant passes all admissions obstacles and processes and is accepted into the program. At that point, all records from the accepted cohort are sent to an agency and each person’s application information is scrutinized thoroughly.
Quite fairly, schools want to be sure that folks are who they say they are, and that no one has been admitted to their program on the back of false information. It is unfortunately easy to imagine someone attempting to defraud the admissions process. Further, the ramifications of a successful con are abhorrent. Thus, background checks are common practice and have been for quite some time.
No big deal, right? Just tell the truth; it’s that easy.
Yet, as illustrated in the above example, the truth is easy to manipulate. What’s more, the manipulation of truth is exactly what we all do all the time. Heck, if we didn’t, nothing would get done because of all the explaining and tangential footnotes! But, the facet more relevant here is the manipulation of information (aka, framing) all aspirant graduate students, employees, fiancés, etc. engage in so as to get what they want.
While the stress of background checks are blown way out of proportion by many out there, the article does present examples that illustrate how comprehensive and obtrusive these investigating companies can be in their process.
The key takeaway is that when you are composing your application packages, clarity and disclosure are the words of the day and reign in that spin doctor sitting on your shoulder.
Are you a recently admitted student that has gone through a background check or about to? Are you nervous about it? Are you confident about it? Is there just one nagging thing you think could possibly be misinterpreted? Share your thoughts!