I received a call last week from a friend who’s in charge of hiring efforts at her ad agency. She said:
“Jane, I’ve got a problem. We found this fantastic woman (who I’ll call Allison) to fill our Account Director position. We conducted references and they were all great. We asked a few of our employees, who used to work at Allison’s most recent company, if they could get some inside scoop and didn’t receive any feedback. So, we offered her the job 2 days ago and she accepted. Fast-forward to today. One of our employees JUST heard from someone who worked with Allison and told us to stay far away. What do I do?”
Before jumping to conclusions, take a deep breath and dig deeper. Who is the person who gave this feedback and what is her agenda? Maybe she doesn’t like Allison. Maybe she and Allison had vied for an internal position and Allison won that battle? Maybe that person is just a negative naysayer who doesn’t like anyone. I don’t think you derail anyone’s career based on the random assertions of some third-party individual that you didn’t even speak with.
What specifically did this “informant” say about Allison? In this particular case, the former co-worker suggested that Allison, was removed from an account due to her behavior. The client wanted her off. This is not what Allison said during the interview process (for obvious reasons). Anyone who works at an agency understands that clients can be difficult and demanding, and do sometimes request new teams to forward their agenda. This doesn’t necessarily indicate foul play or negligence by a singular person. Since my friend was working with a Recruiter on this, I told her that she needed to get him involved. He needed to talk to Allison, tell her what they heard thru the grapevine and get some clarification.
Allison, not only clarified the situation, but she gave additional references from the clients she worked with and they all said fantastic things about her. Everyone felt relieved and even more confident about the initial decision to hire Allison and she got the job.
This very well could have turned out the opposite way, and upon further digging, the candidate could have been caught lying about what truly happened because she was fearful of this exact scenario – not being able to get a job. While I don’t condone lying, fear can cause people to cover their asses, so to speak. Again, digging deeper to find out what really happened must be a priority, vs. making assumptions and listening to heresay. I think it’s important to let the candidate defend herself before putting her on the chopping block because of one random individual’s comments.
That said, if you hear negative things about someone from a variety of sources, you can probably bet there’s something to it. Hopefully you’ll find that out, though, BEFORE you extend an offer.
One more thought. Imagine that you worked for a boss who you absolutely abhorred. A truly horrible, nasty, slave-driving, screaming lunatic. Now imagine that you often gave some lip service back. Do you think that Manager would have nice things to say about you if he was called for a reference? (Oh, and believe me, Hiring Managers and HR go way beyond calling the references that YOU provide.) My guess is no. But, that would be a reflection on his behavior and not yours. Do you think it would be fair for you to lose out on a career move because this ass hat said negative things about you? Me thinks not.
Let’s give people a chance. Carpe diem….
Jane Ashen Turkewitz is the Founder and President of .comRecruiting, a firm dedicated to advancing careers in digital media, mobile and emerging tech. If she could earn a living writing posts like this, she would.
Got a topic you’d like Jane to write about? Got a job for her to fill? Looking for a Recruiter to help you? Here’s how you can reach her…Jane at DotComRecruiting.com