When a Job Candidate Moonlights

A recent Recruiting Daily Advisor article cites a survey that shows recruiters don’t seem to care much if a job candidate holds a second job.

When conducting the survey, outplacement consultancy Challenger Gray & Christmas, gave recruiters a list of social media content and asked which is problematic when vetting a candidate. Only 36.7 percent of recruiters said, “Evidence of a moonlighting business that could be a conflict of interest with, or distraction from, candidate’s primary work” is problematic.
A larger number of respondents, 40 percent, finds spelling and grammar mistakes problematic.

Defining Moonlighting

The term “moonlighting” used to mean holding a second job at night, as in by the light of the moon. Today it is used to describe any number of employment activities a person engages in outside of his or her full-time job.
This could be a second job, with another employer; a self-employed venture; or it may involve multiple gigs that provide extra work and income.
In the past, moonlighting was viewed as a way to supplement earnings. As a result, it has been associated with lower-paying jobs. But this is no longer a valid perception. Many professionals moonlight. During their “off hours” some of these employees may use their skills in similar roles, working as consultants or teaching college courses. Others may pursue completely different interests, like the environmental scientist who works a sculptor or the accountant who on weekends cooks in his cousin’s restaurant.
And employees moonlight for more than the money. A second job sometimes offers an opportunity to develop new skills or pursue a passion. It can also allow for testing the waters in a different field of interest.

Hazards of Moonlighting

While these are all positives, they do have potential downsides.
The first and most obvious is conflict of interest. If an employee takes a second job with a competitor, for example, company information may be disclosed. This might be anything from proprietary data to best practices. The same could hold true if an employee works as a consultant in the industry. Under these circumstances, noncompete agreements may offer protection.
A second issue is bandwidth, as in how much does a person have. While ambition may be viewed as an asset, burnout creates problems for the individual and the company. With few exceptions, a company can’t dictate how an employee spends time during off hours. However, if the person is running a burgeoning business on the side, an employer will want to keep an even closer eye on job performance.

Moonlighting Policy

It is generally not advisable to try and prevent employees from moonlighting. In some states, such as California, it’s illegal to prohibit moonlighting.
In addition, because members of the leadership team may moonlight, singling out employees could create legal problems.
Therefore, instead of prohibiting moonlighting, a company policy should establish expectations with regard to outside employment, including confidentiality, job performance standards, and any potential conflict of interest.
Arguably, a recruiter should evaluate a candidate’s moonlighting activity with attention to the same criteria.

Paula Paula Santonocito, Contributing Editor for Recruiting Daily Advisor, is a business journalist specializing in employment issues. She is the author of more than 1,000 articles on a wide range of human resource and career topics, with an emphasis on recruiting and hiring. Her articles have been featured in many global and domestic publications and information outlets, referenced in academic and legal publications as well as books, and translated into several languages.