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The All-Too Human Condition of Hating a Candidate Due to the Referral Source...

Referrals - We love them in the talent world.

Ideally, referrals are made by employees/team members who understand the culture we've created at our company, and only refer the best in their network to us. That's generally true, and even if there's a few referral spammers in your company, we're better off with referrals than without them.

You know what types of referrals we hate and are suspicious of?

THE REFERRAL FROM SOMEONE IN OUR ORGANIZATION WE DON'T LIKE.

If you've got enough experience in the recruiting/team building game, you've been there before.  You've got an open spot on your team, and you're doing your normal recruiting game.  Then it happens.

Rick, a guy you detest, sends you a referral and vouches for the candidate.

Damn. That's the last thing you needed. But the intensity of your discomfort is directed by the following determination:

--The candidate isn't good. AH HAH!  Rick is clueless. Order has been restored to the universe.

--The candidate is really, really good.  Whoops!  Shit just got complicated.

Why does the candidate being good make it problematic? Well, you hate Rick. That means the following things are in play:

1--If you don't interview a great candidate, you're the problem, not Rick.  That's never been a part of the narrative you had related to your relationship with Rick.

2--If you interview the great referral from Rick and don't hire them, it gives Rick an avenue to criticize the selection you do make. 

3--If you interview the candidate and hire them, have you just hired someone sympathetic to Rick when he's kind of been your nemesis during your tenure at ACME.com.  That seems like it might be problematic.

All of these things go through our mind when we get a referral from someone in our organization we don't like. The blind spot is simply to ignore the referral, because you won't engage with a person you don't respect and trust. But if you do that, you're playing small. You're better than that.

The real talent magnets understand that quality internal referrals from sworn enemies or simply people you don't like are GIFTS.  You should absolutely interview them and hire them if they're the best person for the job.

Whether you simply interview or actually hire the quality referral from a known enemy inside your company, you're playing chess - not checkers - with your engagement with this type of candidate.

Mine the candidate for info about Rick. You may learn they don't know Rick as well as you thought they did.  But if they do, be sure and drop some details to Rick about your conversation.  It's fun to watch Rick be a little bit uncomfortable.

Can you hire this candidate?  That really depends how good you are at your job.  If you're great at your job, they're going to enjoy being part of your team and Rick's not a threat.  Rick may actually end up hating the fact that he gave you a great referral, which is a gift in itself.

Great referrals from sources you hate are an opportunity. Play chess, not checkers.

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