My linked in is blowing up
May 11, 2011 8:41 PM   Subscribe

I have had a rash of contacts in the last few days asking about a specific job at my company. I sort of know the hiring manager, but not well enough to just send every random person his way. Basically, I want to blow off these networking inquiries from my colleagues and acquaintances, but maintain cordial relations. How do I handle this delicate task?

In particular, one person is really not someone I want to recommend. Let's call my networking acquaintance Nancy, and the hiring manager Joe.

1. I don't particularly like Nancy, nor do I think she will fit in well at the company (let's say "not a team player") and I don't want to refer someone that I don't strongly recommend.*

2. I've been sending a lot of people to Joe for informational interviews, etc. and I don't know Joe well enough to know if this is networking fatigue for him. I think I should limit my referrals to Joe to a handful a year at the most. (honestly, someday I may want to work for Joe, and I care more about that contact.)

3. Despite the fact that I want to politely blow her off, I would like Nancy to be available to me in my network in case I had a professional question, etc. and I don't want to burn any bridges.

How would you handle this?

*I have been burned in the past by people recommending terrible candidates to me. I think it reflects poorly on the recommender, so I try to never, ever do that and maintain my integrity within the world of professional networking (as silly as that sounds)
posted by rainydayfilms to Human Relations (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Tell them that your company only hires through specific channels according to it's policies (Headhunters, Internet job listings, whatever) and they have to go through that way. I've worked for companies that only hire through one headhunter - they actually have a contract which means they won't accept people through other avenues.
posted by Jubey at 8:52 PM on May 11, 2011

I would be friendly and positive to Nancy but not put her in touch with Joe. Encourage her to apply, and offer to provide any info that might help her. Say you don't really have a relationship with the department that would allow you to connect with whomever is doing the hiring (or whatever is true), and you know that they want people to submit their resume just like it says on the website. But offer to talk to her about the organization, what they're like, what they're looking for...
posted by salvia at 8:54 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

This is one of the 6,504 reasons I hate the entire notion of networking. People used to do this to me all the time. When it happened with a person I didn't think was so great, I'd say that I didn't have much control over who they hired but I'd do what I could within reason. What I could do within reason when I didn't think someone was great was nothing, so it wasn't a lie.
posted by millipede at 8:55 PM on May 11, 2011 [7 favorites]

Ask Joe how comfortable he is with informational interviews. He might be the kind of guy who loves doing them and wouldn't at all mind you pushing someone over to him who you're not recommending per se.
posted by Etrigan at 9:10 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm a recruiter and I get tons of recommendations and referrals from within the company. Sorting them is part of my job, and even though they're mostly noise, many of our best candidates are identified in this way.

The only thing that annoys me is when someone sends a mediocre candidate and then follows up constantly. Have you looked at Xs CV? Are you going to bring X in? Grr. Yes, I have. No, I will not. Please stop asking, it's awkward for everyone.

An easy way to make sure that Nancy never gets an interview is to pass on her CV with a note that says something like, "I've worked with Nancy in the past and I'm not sure how she'd fit in with the company, but I thought I'd pass on her CV anyway in case you were looking for someone with [random qualification.]" You get to honestly say you've passed her on, Joe will probably ignore it, and everyone keeps trucking on.
posted by charmcityblues at 9:14 PM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

Honestly, I would just refer her to the job posting and encourage her to submit her resume through the normal channels. You can add something like, "all the resumes have to go through X. The company is pretty strict about their hiring process, so you're best bet is to get your resume and cover letter in promptly and then go from there. Unfortunately, I'm not consulted at all in the hiring process. Sorry, wish I had more to offer you in terms of advice. Good luck!"
posted by whoaali at 9:22 PM on May 11, 2011

I might reply with a lot of direct, probing questions. Why are you interested about this particular company? Why are you interested this particular job? How has your previous experience prepared you for this position? What sets you apart from other candidates? What kinds of sacrifices will you make so that you will excel?

Basically, conduct a take-home interview. Set the bar high. Directly challenge known weaknesses. Either they try really hard and end up impressing you, in which case you can actually make a recommendation to Joe, or they don't try to overcome this obstacle and they don't deserve the recommendation.
posted by germdisco at 9:24 PM on May 11, 2011

First of all, as Etrigan suggested, I would talk to Joe and get a feel for how much throttling he would want me to do on sending people his way.

Second, there are a couple of scenarios in between "this person is not a fit", and "I endorse this person, you need to interview them RIGHT NOW!" I'm going to assume here that your company is large enough that there is an HR function and that for hiring to happen, they have to be somewhere in the loop on receiving resumes, screening candidates for minimum quals, background checks, that kind of thing. Here are my six or so responses depending on how I feel about Nancy, how well I know Nancy, and how Nancy's "ask" came to me:

To Nancy: "Nancy, I'm going to be blunt here: this isn't a fit for you. Are you sure you want to apply?" (based on what you told us about Nancy, I would probably start with this response, but that is a style thing).

To Nancy: "Let me point you to the website and the HR function so you can get your name in the hat."

To Nancy: "send me your resume and I will pass it on." Send the resume to the HR people. To Joe: nothing, or "Joe, I've got this resume... but I'm not sure they are a fit for us."

To Joe: "I've got this resume from Nancy that was handed to me by Mr. Friendly, one of our board members... I've sent it along to HR, but I'd like to know what happened with the application in case I'm asked."

To Joe: "Joe, I've got this resume... but I'm not sure they are a fit but would like for them to get a courtesy interview." (example: if Nancy was a super candidate for the company, but just not a fit for *this* job and the exposure of going through an interview would be helpful for all concerned. Or Nancy was my next door neighbor and I have no plans to move -- I'm asking Joe for a favor here.)

To Joe: "Joe, I've got this resume... and I think they would be a great fit for the job. I would be happy to tell you more."
posted by kovacs at 9:38 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Unless it's someone I'm truly enthusiastic about I generally go with "I don't know the guy, but I can pass on a resume."

The resume ends up going to HR, or the garbage bin if I really don't want to work with them.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:43 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, sorry Nancy, I've already recommended someone for that position. You should totally apply though.
posted by Iteki at 9:45 PM on May 11, 2011

Just taking the other side of things, to a jobseeker, reaching out can be difficult and she might feel anxious and stressed if she is seeking employment. Please don't outright lie and tell her you'll do something when you won't. It is agonizing when you have to wait for a response from a job you applied to, especially if it's one you really want. And if she contacted you about it, it sounds like she does.

I think kovacs is on the right track. Talk to Joe and ask how he feels about referrals and doing informational interviews. Then if you have to let Nancy down, the option to go with "I don't think this is going to be a fit". But if you talk to Joe about the situation first, try an "I talked to Joe, but he said he didn't see a fit for the position (if it's true - do explain what you know).
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:23 PM on May 11, 2011

Networking is lovely and useful, as long as you know the etiquette of the interaction. Part of the problem is that the Nancys of the world aren't regarding professional courtesy in their request.

That courtesy includes giving you both options and an out on how you can best help them. Usually, that courteous language is: that they understand there is a position, and are asking your advice about the best way to apply, if you know anything about the position, and then, can you forward their information on, if you think it would be effective.

This gives you the freedom to choose your comfort level, but still really help them. You can tell them that what you do know about the position, how people have successfully applied in the past, what the organization is like (Salvia nailed it), what the application process is like, what your interview process is like, the name of the hiring manager so the person can address the cover letter to the person, and perhaps just any other general information. Super helpful to individuals who know how to use the golden advice you're dropping into their lap. Ultimately useless to people who aren't the strongest candidates for the specific position.

In this situation, you could share that because you've been contacted by a couple of people already, you've overall decided to abide by a general rule and give all of them the same leg up: that is, the same valuable information that would help them make a strong case in their cv and cover letter, if they already come to the table with the skills. In this case, you'd still have the freedom to make an exception to your rule for the 1 or so person who really stands out as having at least 80-90% of the skills and experience needed based on your understanding of the job. And you can share with them that you will make an exception to your rule and forward their information, but to please keep it confidential. Another approach is that you actually collect all of the cvs, tell Joe that you have about 10 people, and have ordered them with the strongest on top of the short pile, so he can feel free to stop looking after the first 3. Another is to forward them as you get them, but to use the great language that kovacs has to help Joe understand how strongly you rate them.

The point is, I think, is to find ways to act with integrity (don't take their info and then chuck it, don't say you're going to pass it on and let them think it's to Joe when it's really to HR, etc.). You can decide that it's not your job to 'vet' candidates, but to give individuals in your network the same information, which gives them the same great shot to impress or crash and burn. That's up to them. You can also let them know where Joe is in the hiring process, and tell them if another candidate was hired, particularly if HR doesn't get back to them.

But people don't do this. They assume, often because every professional guru keeps saying it, that the best thing to do is to get someone to 'pass your information on', missing a whole lot of valuable guidance. So redirect folks in your network, and don't focus on what you won't do, but on what you can do for them. That way you wouldn't have to feel shady when you see Nancy, or want something from her. I think the integrity is what makes it 'engaging' people in your professional community/network, rather than 'using' them.

PS: I know lots of people who say they wish someone would just tell them if their application sucks. In the same way that finalist candidates want employers to tell them why they didn't get the job. They do want to know, but often really aren't okay with what they hear. In those situation candidates sometimes try to fight or 'clarify' points that they think the other person misunderstood, rather than really listening to the opinion that they just asked for. So I don't think you need to tell Nancy why she's not a great fit. Unless you think she can really hear you. Once again, focus on what you can do for her, rather than what you can't, or won't.
posted by anitanita at 10:50 PM on May 11, 2011 [12 favorites]

Talk to Joe, and ask him the question you posed here - is he getting fatigued from all the references?

I'm not sure why passing contact details onto Joe would automatically get the person an informational interview (if I've understood you correctly). The way I handle networking is to tell the person that I am happy to pass on their resume and "ensure it gets into the hands of the right person". This means that I am doing them the favor of bypassing HR's keyword filter, and taking their resume straight to the hiring manager for that job. I tell them I can't guarantee anything, but am happy to help out. I will say this to everyone that asks me, regardless of whether I think they are awesome or a total loser.

Then I deliver their resume to the hiring manager, and give that manager my honest opinion. "Hey Joe, a friend/acquaintance/ex-coworker of mine is interested in this job, and I said I would pass his/her resume on to you." Then I might say "I think he is a great fit for the job, I have worked with him before and would personally recommend him." Or I might say "I think he is a great guy who I trust, but I have never directly worked with him before". Or "I worked with this guy before, and I'm not sure he's a great fit for the job, but see what you think." In every case I am making it clear what my opinion is, but leaving it up to the hiring manager to make a decision about whether to call them, based on their feelings about the resume and my opinion. I know everyone in my office well enough that they are comfortable asking me followup questions if necessary. If I hand over a resume with a lukewarm recommendation, they understand I am doing it for networking purposes, and are free to throw it straight in the trash, but they are thorough enough to look it over anyway.

I will follow up once, if I think the candidate is good. If the person calls and bugs me, I will tell them that I passed on their resume for them. I make it pretty clear up front that my only service is to pass on the resume, not follow up for them or anything else.
posted by Joh at 10:57 PM on May 11, 2011

I would simply forward the resume with a note along the lines of, "I used to work with Nancy. I'm not sure she is a fit, but I'll let you make that determination." Joe will understand what you are saying between the lines.
posted by COD at 8:57 AM on May 12, 2011

Stop sending resumes to the hiring manager. One of the rules of networking is only provide help if people ask for it. If they do not ask for help, they do not need help.

3. Despite the fact that I want to politely blow her off, I would like Nancy to be available to me in my network in case I had a professional question, etc. and I don't want to burn any bridges.

Look, if you can't recommend Nancy to your colleague, why do you think she'll be helpful in the future?

Besides, this is not how networking works. Networking is NOT asking someone to use up their hard-earned social capital to get them to introduce you to the hiring manager.

Networking instead is about joining and helping build a community of like-minded professionals. One of the benefits of networking is getting to know people. Nancy knows who the hiring manager is. It's up to her to contact him directly.

Going back to whether or not Nancy will help you in the future, chances are she will not. I've helped a lot of people find work (I worked at an industry association for more than 5 years, and know every CEO and hiring manager in my sector in town).

People I have helped out have usually not repaid the favour. It's no big deal. Some people get it, but most don't.

Stop wasting your time and wasting your social capital. Work on building community instead.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:13 AM on May 12, 2011

KokuRyu has it spot on. You're wasting your social capital on people you don't really believe in. Save it for when you need it, and be polite to Nancy in the meantime. Let her know that you appreciate her interest in your company, and you'll look forward to hearing how it goes. If the hiring manager asks you your opinion of her, be frank but don't otherwise offer it.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:38 AM on May 12, 2011

Unfortunately Nancy asked for help - not only for the resume to be passed on, but for the name of the hiring manager. This is not a polite approach in my opinion. I would defintiely never abuse my social capital by passing on names of hiring managers without their permission. (no one wants to be cold called by a job hunter).

To be clear, Nancy has no idea who Joe is. She told me what the job was, and I deduced that Joe is likely the hiring manager.

Joe is someone who leads a really popular group amongst my cohort, so I have passed on several people to him to learn more about what he does. I'm very comfortable with the targeted introduction for the purpose of learning more - and I always ask before I pass on his information. It's someone asking me to forward a resume I am less comfortable with (as an implied recc of the person).

Thanks for the great answers, they are very helpful!
posted by rainydayfilms at 2:36 PM on May 12, 2011

Since you deduced that Joe is the hiring manager but do not actually know, you can truthfully tell Nancy that you don't know who the hiring manager for the position is. Let her know that you support her endeavor, but unfortunately aren't involved in that particular job search. If she pushes for more, tell her that if she gives you her resume, you will try to get it in the right hands, but you can't make any promises.
posted by stoneweaver at 3:04 PM on May 12, 2011

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