A reader writes:
My company encourages candidate referrals, via informational meetings and hire-on bonuses. So far, I’ve referred three candidates to my job function, the most recent one being my husband. We are a huge, international company with a few other partner couples working here, so that’s definitely not frowned upon. Also, we have several teams of people like me, so if he were hired on we would work on separate teams under different managers, on other sides of the floor.
My husband’s experience and skills make him a fit for this job, more qualified than even me! He interviewed and expressed his interest in moving out of sales (his current job function) and into a more consultative role (what I do). He felt the interview went really well, but ultimately, his interviewers (one of whom is my manager) were split on hiring him for this role; one thought he’d be a great fit, one thought he’d excel in a sales role. Since they were divided, the decision was made to not offer him the job, but to put his resume in the hands of the sales director.
Before referring him, I did a lot of soul searching on what it would be like working with him. Together we discussed strategies on making sure our work and personal lives were kept separate and that our colleagues viewed us as independent, professional people and perhaps coworkers who didn’t know us wouldn’t even know we were a couple. I’m trying really hard to maintain this division of “involvement,” but it’s hard because now I’m discouraged and frustrated. My other referrals were also not offered the job (though my husband honestly was the most qualified), and I’ve heard similar experiences from many other colleagues on the floor. If they’re all not good candidates, then who is?
I recognize my bias here, hence my email to you. Did he tank the interview and this is the nice way of dodging that explanation? Why encourage but then decline our solid referrals? Is there any way of professionally expressing this frustration? If so, to whom? Is there a way to get him reconsidered for that job? (We are growing so they are hiring gobs of people!) I appreciate any insight you can offer. Until then, I will maintain my anonymity in this situation and not let this aggravation color my work interactions.
Well, some positions are really hard to fill — they’re looking for a rare combination of skills, or they want a specific personality type to work with particular clients or a difficult manager, or they need some special skill on top of the stuff they’d normally hire for in that job, or the role just has a really high bar.
And it can be really hard to have an objective perspective on what people you love are like professionally, or how they come across in interviews.
Your company interviewed your husband and decided not to hire him. While it’s natural to wonder why, the best thing you can do is to respect their decision and not let it eat at you — and definitely not push them to reconsider. Pushing for them to reconsider would make everyone uncomfortable and make you look like you’re putting personal bias ahead of your company’s interests, and your credibility will suffer. There’s no real way to say “please reconsider your decision about my husband” while sounding objective and appropriately removed from the situation.
You asked why your company is encouraging referrals but then not hiring them. They want referrals because referrals are often a great way of finding good candidates — but they’re not a guarantee. The fact that someone was referred by a current employee doesn’t mean they’ll definitely be hired. Someone might be a perfectly solid referral and still not quite what the hiring manager is looking for.
You can actually ask about this in a general way, as long as you frame it as wanting to make good referrals and not as wanting to get your husband reconsidered. You could say something like, “Can you help me understand what we’re looking for in the X role? I’ve referred a few people who I thought would be great but they weren’t hired, so I’m wondering if i should be thinking of a different candidate profile.”
And about your frustration: It’s okay to be disappointed that this didn’t work out. But it’s not fair to your colleagues or your company to let it go beyond that, into frustration or aggravation. You mentioned that you put a lot of effort into keeping your personal and professional lives separate and ensuring that you’re operating as independent people, not a unit — which is great. But this is the next part of that! It’s not enough to be independent and separate when things are going well, but to drop that when they’re not. In this case, that means that you shouldn’t be or stay overly invested in your company hiring your husband. He can certainly apply again if he’d like to, but that’s for him to handle on his own. Your part is just to move forward with continued good will for your colleagues from here and not let this get under your skin.