In my travels as a hiring authority for the last 25 years or so, I have benefited from both sides of the job-candidate-referral equation.
As a job candidate, being referred to a prospective employer has led to several great career experiences, for which I am most grateful.
One memorable experience was with my now-friend and colleague, Dale. As a direct candidate referral to the CEO of a large publicly-held organization, all of my prior interviews with the CEO’s executive team frankly did not meet the threshold for an employment interview. Instead, they were meet-and-greet chats, e.g.: “So the CEO has hired you for the HR team; nice to meet you;” or “I understand the CEO is very impressed with your background;” or “Let me give you some advice about how to best work with the CEO.”
Clearly, I was about to become the most senior HR person on their team, as none of the more-junior HR folks on the team had a chance to interview me before I was hired. While I knew that I would do a great job for my new company, and I was honored to be hired directly by the CEO, I wanted the same due diligence performed for my candidacy that I had performed as a Recruiter for the candidates that I hired. I wanted my strong skills, abilities and experience to be reviewed, validated and documented thoroughly so we could all start off in our work together on a high note.
As the Vice President of Loss Prevention, Dale did not disappoint. “So,” Dale began, opening up his folder to my rèsumé, liberally highlighted and marked with his notes and questions, “Please tell me about your union relations experience, and how it would benefit our company.” I exhaled with relief and smiled at him. “Thank you for interviewing me,” I replied. “Please ask me all of your questions. If you have the time; I certainly do. I want you and the CEO to get all of the information you need to feel completely comfortable with me in my role.” Dale smiled back. “Don’t worry, that’s my plan.”
The moral of my story above for hiring authorities is to interview referral candidates thoroughly, as if you knew nothing about them. Referrals are not an iron-clad guarantee of candidate quality, underscoring the need to interview all candidates with equal due diligence.
Conversely, as a hiring authority, I have encountered too many referral candidates who labor under the mistaken belief that just because they have been referred for an interview (especially if they have been referred to an influential person in the organization, e.g. the CEO), they are a shoe-in for the job. Consequently, they may step in it via their bravado in a few sad ways:
- Not proofing their employment application email, CV and other applications materials for typos, because they’ve been directly referred to the hiring organization’s CEO – and then repeatedly sending the same information with the same typos;
- Bragging to company interviewers of their influential referral connection (and bragging – inaccurately – that they already had the job because of their influential referral connection), rather than listening to each interviewer’s needs and factually outlining how they meet each interviewer’s needs.
In both cases above, referral candidates in their bravado ruled themselves out as viable / competitive candidates.
However, when a referral candidate’s quality is confirmed by the due diligence of a good interview process, that’s the ultimate prospective employer / employee win-win.
How will you do your diligence on (or as) job candidate referrals in business and at work?