Be Careful While Hiring Through Reference

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While hiring through references, we get TWO kinds of people –

Category #1 – X has worked with Y. X vouch for the knowledge, work commitment, trustworthiness and professionalism of Y. When X makes a career move, he refers Y to his new employers, as and when there arises a suitable opportunity OR X refers Y to his contacts when his employers start the process of restructuring or downsizing, which might result in job loss for Y.

Category #2 – X has NOT worked with Y. He has no idea about the knowledge, skills or work-ethics of Y. Y is either a distant relative of X OR Y has been referred to X by Z. X and Z are relatives/friends. None of them has worked with Y. They want to help Y, who is unable to find a job on his own. They want to do it to impress or to return a favor or to be in the good books of their distant relative or friend.

While Category #1 is highly recommended (it saves on recruitment cost and ensures employee engagement as well as retention); hiring by Category #2 is highly risky – uncertain and unstable.

I have done hiring through both kinds of references and let me share with you, hiring Category #2 kind of people is detrimental. It is being said that if you get a job and you don’t have the skills to do the job, take the job and then learn the skill. However, in most of the cases, I have seen, these employees neither have the skills nor have any inclination to learn. Most often they behave like son-in-laws of the organization. Honestly speaking, those who can't find jobs on their own are serious losers. And those who promote them obviously have hidden motives of their own.

Let me share one incident. Once there was a candidate being referred by our CFO. I was informed that one of his uncles had helped the organization in recovering over several million INR of sales tax from government authorities and hence was instructed to hire him. “But the candidate has very poor communication skills, cannot operate on MS Office and has very weak subject knowledge”, I told the CFO. “I will hire in my team and coach to develop the necessary capabilities”, the CFO said with confidence. We hired the candidate. FIVE months later, the CFO realized that the new employee could not be trained. He was unwilling to learn. Many managers in the team tried to coach him, but he was just not willing to learn. He was also told that if he won’t learn and do the required work, he would get terminated. The threat didn’t help. In fact, he was overheard, going around and telling others in the company that no one dared fire him because he had been referred by XYZ and he was related to our CFO. Two weeks later, we fired that employee before he could complete his probation period of SIX months. 

I believe that had he focussed on his learnings and developing skills, he could have stayed and grown in the company. What are your thoughts? 

Hiring through references of employees has always been seen as a great way to ensure employee retention and increase productivity at workplace. However, do not dilute your hiring processes to fit in a candidate referred by your senior, no matter how senior he has been.

Sanjeev Himachali

Sanjeev Himachali is a Strategic HR Consultant, Talent Strategist,  Management Consultant and a Performance Coach. He exhibits over a decade and a half years of progressive, leadership experience and core competencies in talent acquisition, management, and development, HR program management, compensation & benefits management, and staff engagements.

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Principal Consultant & Talent Strategist

As a Principal Consultant, Sanjeev is credited with pioneering best practice HR systems and processes for clients. As a Talent Strategist, Sanjeev partners with organizations hiring managers to find, select, and hire top talent which provides a foundation for organization's future growth.

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