Note to Hiring Managers — Tell Candidates They Aren’t Getting the Job Before Referring Them to Others (Doh!)

Awkard.  That’s the only way to describe this scenario.

I’m currently looking for a sales rep in Boston for a digital media client.  I sent out a bunch of emails and left a ton of messages for potential candidates for this particular job.  Yesterday, a really great guy called me back and, although he was not in the market, was eager to help me out.  He’s also currently hiring for his company and since Boston is a very small market, he wanted to give me a few names – plus, keep in touch for the future.  I was greatful – and I still am.

Whenever someone gives me candidate names, I always ask the referrer if I can mention his/her name or if I should keep it confidential.  In this particular case, the gentleman we’re talking about told me that I could mention his name for two of the candidates he referred my way.  He said something like, “I really liked both of these guys but they are just not quite right for what I need. You can give them my name as I’d like them to know I’m helping them out.”

Great!  Super nice and thoughtful. Right?

Well,  yes and no.

I sent an email to one of the candidates and told her that “Joe Shmo” recommended that we connect.  I got an immediate response back with the first inquiry being “um, can you tell me when Joe recommended me?”  I immediately knew what happened.  Joe, who was being thoughtful, gave me this woman’s name but didn’t tell the woman that he wasn’t going to be able to move forward with her in terms of HIS job. So, ostensibly, she found out by me!   (Here’s where the “DOH!” comes in.)  Obviously if Joe was going to bring her in for additional rounds of interviews, he wouldn’t have given her name to a recruiter.  It was super thoughtful of him to think of her but I do wish he would have told her that he wasn’t going to hire her first.

The fact is that hiring managers usually don’t give candidates a second thought if they are not going to add them to their team.  They don’t call candidates to let them know (most of the time) and they certainly don’t give any reasons for their decisions.  Why?  It’s just too uncomfortable for them to do so and they don’t want to get into a discussion or argument with candidates regarding their reasons for rejection. Most candidates, although they have come to understand that this is the standard, don’t necessarily like it, but have learned to accept it. However, if you are going to a “good guy” and refer the candidate to others for hire, as a hiring manager, you should really, at least, let the candidate know first.

Carpe diem…


  • A.
    December 8, 2010

    Love it! out of curiosity, when the referral DOES say to keep their name out of it, how do you handle it when the candidate asks how you heard about them?

  • paula7928
    March 27, 2012

    How lame is all I can say!

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