When I was 14 years old and legally able to work on a limited basis, my Granddaddy Nat asked the owner of the True Value hardware store where he worked as a treasured semi-retired sales associate to hire me. And the owner did, sight unseen – I was never interviewed. My very part-time job, which only lasted a few months and was obviously created just to reward my Granddaddy’s performance, was literally dusting all of the shelves and merchandise in the store. It was absolutely the most boring job of my career to date. Since I did nothing personally to earn that job, it was clearly a “you get what you paid for” life and career experience.
Fast-forward a few decades to my adult career vocation as a hiring authority. A professional colleague in my network called and asked me to consider their out-of-work spouse for an opening at my company. I reviewed Spouse’s CV objectively, and determined that Spouse was a viable match for the opening. I forwarded Spouse’s CV to another member of my team, and recused myself from the interviewing / hiring process. I’m glad I did. Spouse proceeded to drop my name with every member of the interview team, inaccurately bragging that they were a shoe-in for the job because they knew me, completely failing to: 1) Do the job in the interview process; 2) Listen to what the hiring team needed; 3) Explain how they met / exceeded the needs of the position; and most importantly 4) Focus on their own qualifications, not their (imagined) influential relationship with me. You know when some of your more casual LinkedIn network connections ask you to write a recommendation for them to post on their profiles, even though you know nothing of their work / have never worked with them? It was just like that. (For future reference: from an integrity / reputation standpoint, I always say no to those type of requests.)
At the end of the day, the responsible Department Head reached out to me to tell me the above details of Spouse’s interview process. I was a bit embarrassed. However, I also felt sad for both Colleague and their Spouse. “I’m sorry Spouse wasted your team’s time,” I apologized to Department Head. “No worries, Deb. It’s a shame, because Spouse was clearly qualified for the job,” Department Head replied. “Maybe they were nervous because they’ve been out of work, but they also clearly blew it by dropping your name with every interviewer and telling us that they already had the job because of you.” I shook my head. “Got it, thanks for the feedback.”
As a courtesy, I reached out to Colleague to let them know that their Spouse did not get the job. I got another dose of Colleague’s and Spouse’s misguided belief system during that call. “You mean you didn’t get Spouse the job?” Colleague asked incredulously. “No, I didn’t,” I explained. “It would be an ethical conflict of interest as an HR professional for me to do so. That’s why I recused myself from the interview process.” Colleague was upset. “I told Spouse that you would get the job for them,” Colleague continued. “I apologize for any misunderstanding,” I replied. “It just doesn’t work that way. Spouse needed to focus on how they would meet the needs of the job, not on the fact that they knew me.” However, neither Colleague or Spouse got the message that jobs are earned, not owed in business and work – which may in part explain why Spouse continued to remain out of work for some time thereafter.
How do you authentically and respectfully leverage the treasure trove that is your professional network to earn the job (or sale) in business and at work?