Forums

I discover a friend I know well, works with an applicant for a job I have open.

Should I contact my friend to ask about this applicant (reference check), risking that my friend learns the applicant is looking elsewhere for work?

I have only discovered this through LinkedIn and I don't know what the relationship is - only that they are at the same company (which I knew) and have connected directly via Linked In.

The applicant might even work for my friend.

Or they might be departments away from each other.

Either way, I trust this friend NOT to do the wrong thing should he find one of his guys is looking but is it ethical to do it this way or should I discuss with the applicant before having the conversation with my friend?

Your thoughts most welcome ...

mattpalmer's picture

I'm torn over whether to mention it to the applicant.  It would depend on whether you think the applicant will understand that contacts are unofficial reference checks and that sort of thing happens, or you think they'd freak out.  Personally, if someone freaked out, it'd tell me more than enough about them to take them out of the running, but you might have a different take on it.

Either way, though, leave your friend to the end.  Gather as much information as you can about the applicant through other channels, and then talk to your friend.  That way, you *minimise* the chances of damage.  If another referee is going to sink your candidate, better that their current employer never know they were looking, and if you call your friend up first, there's more time for the news to leak.  Your friend might be professional and trustworthy, but accidents happen.  There's no need to unnecessarily increase the risk.

If you'd like, you can make an offer, contingent on final reference checks, although I'm not sure how much better that actually is rather than trusting your friend's professionalism.  People are often blinded by the dollar signs and don't consider the "contingent" part of the offer, and they go and do something stupid (like telling their boss and co-workers what they really think of them).  That's another one of those "you reap what you sow" things, but I'm not a people person, so you might like to be more considerate of other peoples' foibles.

At the end, though, it is ethical to talk to as many people as you need to in order to make a decision about a candidate.  Taking steps to minimise the chances of adverse consequences to the candidate is considerate.  However, by no means does the risk of their taking a hit outweigh your obligation to yourself, your team, and your wider organisation to hire the best possible people you can.

Peter.westley's picture

Matt,

Thanks for your considered opinion. I think I agree - one must use what one has available in order to make the best decision - including in this circumstance.

I think I agree with leaving till the end - the only downside to that is that if he says, "heck, don't hire!", I've already invested the interviewing time ...

I might contact him in the middle of the process somewhere - make a compromise! That way I might have been able to have the conversation with the applicant and tested the waters there ...

-- Peter

DISC®: 2564
@pjwestley

tomw's picture

I would never contact someone to ask about a potential applicant without the applicant's permission. I would say that even more strongly if I do not know the relationship between those two people. They might not work together at all; one might be dating the other's ex. I don't know what I'm getting into and have no business interfering in their relationship, whatever it might be.

The risk of harm to the applicant and the potential liability that I would expose myself to is too high.

mattpalmer's picture

I can't imagine a situation in which calling up a person and asking them reasonable, professional questions about a third party would result in legal liability.  It is a perfectly reasonable, professional thing to do, to reach out to your network and gather further information about an applicant.  I have no doubt that it happens thousands of times every day around the world, and somehow we've all managed to survive.

There are a great many things that we do that have some small chance of causing problems.  An applicant could have a phobia about the colour blue, and I happened to wear a blue shirt the day I interviewed them.  The combination of the colour blue and the stress of the interview could cause them to collapse, they could fall backwards, hit their head on the coffee table in our foyer, and break their neck.  Since it was my blue shirt that triggered the incident, I could be sued. Am I going to go to work topless every day I interview someone, just in case?  Probably not.  I'm not going to stop engaging in a great many professional behaviours (like wearing a shirt) on the off chance it might cause some incredibly unlikely outcome.

Peter, on the subject of the order in which to do things: any one of your applicant's references might say "heck, don't hire!", so you should do all your reference checks before you invest time in interviewing.  But then again, you might find that the applicant isn't any good in the interview, so you should do the interview before you invest time in reference checks.  There's also the chance that the person will show themselves to be incapable of doing the job, so you should hire them before you invest time in interviewing or reference checks...

Any part of the recruiting process could highlight a problem with a candidate.  While it's important to put cheap, easy checks with a good chance of filtering out the "no" candidates early in the process, you can't sort things that way completely because you just don't know what's going to send up a red flag.  Once you get past the phone screen, you're going to be investing a lot of resources into *any* component, so you're best off sorting things by other criteria (like who's in the office that day, or what's going to be most convenient for the candidate, or any number of other possibilities).

Peter.westley's picture

I had a phone interview with said candidate this morning. He raised the point that I was connected to - wait for it - his manager!

As it turns out, the candidate was at the end of contract and has now finished with that employer so I'm free to discuss.

The candidate was going to use him as a referee anyway!

Solved.

-- Peter

DISC®: 2564
@pjwestley

mattpalmer's picture

*sniff*  *grabs a tissue*

tomw's picture

Remind me to tell your boss every time you are interviewing.

You obviously have no sense of other people's privacy or concern for what damage you could do to them with your thoughtless approach to "being professional"

 

mattpalmer's picture

Feel free to let him know.  I'll PM you his e-mail address, if you'd like.

Peter.westley's picture

Please keep the tone of discussions free of personal attack. That is definitely NOT the MT way.

Express your opinion, yes, and do it in a way that accepts the other might see it differently to you.

-- Peter

DISC®: 2564
@pjwestley