So we were discussing needing to dismiss someone for poor performance, and using the "will he be surprised?" question as your threshold of whether you were being "evil" or not. You have a responsibility to your company, but you also have a moral responsibility to not unnecessarily mess with someone's life.
But that covers folks on the way out. What about on the way in? In my
mind, you have an even greater responsibility to avoid being evil when making the hire. Let's examine...
You're recruiting. You're interviewing. You're giving all the candidates the hard sell about how great your company is, and why it's the only place they should even consider working. Whether it's about the type of work, potential workmates, salary, benefits, chance for advancement and growth, or anything else, this is the place to be! Of course I'm assuming that you've told the honest truth during your
sales pitch. If not, give yourself a slap in the face and change your
So, you've found the person you think is the best for the job. What does "best" mean anyway? Is he really really suited for it? Is his chance of success 90% or greater? If so, wonderful... make the close! But if the "best" you can find will only have a mediocre chance of succeeding with you, don't do it. "Well, I can get him to come here, and even though he only has a medium chance of success, if it doesn't work out, we'll just let him go." In the words of Dr. Evil... "Riiiiggghhhtttt...." Maybe he doesn't have a job now (or just is very unhappy where he currently is) so this isn't totally criminal. But if he's happily employed, you're messing with his life. You're being evil. At the very least you'd better tell him that you might be willing to try him out, but that his chances of success are iffy. See what he has to say about that. Push back a bit.
What if you do have more info on the candidate? It doesn't happen often, but sometimes, as a hiring manager, you get insight into other opportunities that the guy has available to him. He might just outright tell you, but usually it will be because you have a history with the guy. The history is invaluable on its own, and it can give you a solid foundation for knowing who might be your best targets.
But, especially in these cases (or if the candidate is just currently employed somewhere else), you must consider what's best for the guy even over your own personal needs. Help him walk through his options. Put your company in its proper place in the choices he can exercise. If you really come out on top, great for everybody. If not, and he still wants to come work with you, realize that the "tug" of other great opportunities will always be there nagging at him. Push back on him and get him to justify his position. What's exciting him so much for your opportunity as opposed to staying where he is or going somewhere else?
You can see that, in most hiring situations, the "talk him out of it" test is another good tool for assessing someone's state of mind. Don't go crazy, but just gently point out any legitimate points that might make some other decision better for him. If he shows so much excitement and interest that he can overcome your push-backs, you can feel pretty good moving forward.