Many candidates who I have out on interviews ask at me at some point in the process if they should have someone call the company to put in a good word for them. Often they know someone who knows the CEO, head of human resources or another senior executive at the agency or company. My answer is always a resounding, “NO.”
I just had it happen last week. A candidate who was doing well at an agency is friendly with the general manager or president of that agency’s west coast office. She asked me if she should have the GM call the hiring manager to put in a good word for her. I told her it is bad form for several reasons.
First, no hiring manager or agency executive likes to be put under pressure. It could also be embarrassing for the person being called if the candidate is not right for the job. The person making the call undoubtedly does not know what the job is really about and whether the person they are calling for is right for the job. Consequently, the call might actually reflect negatively on the candidate. Second, the chances are good that the person you may know does not know the hiring manager and calls someone else in the organization; those people are then put in a difficult position because they generally do not want to interfere with or are not involved with the hiring process. Finally, despite what one may think, you never know about the relationship between these executives.
I had a not so funny incident a few years back. A candidate who was the lead to get a job as the senior most executive running a major account asked if he could have his former boss, the chairman of one of the country’s largest agencies, call the CEO to put in a good word for him. I said no. I told him my reasoning. But my candidate insisted that the two executives were good friends and that it would be a good thing for his candidacy. I begged my candidate to save it until a reference was asked for.
Well, you know what happened.
A few days later the CEO of my client agency called me and told me he would no longer be pursuing my candidate. He told me that the chairman of the other agency had called to give an unsolicited recommendation for my candidate. The CEO was offended by the call because the hire was much too important to the agency to have another agency executive push him without knowing anything about the issues of the job. He did not want another agency executive interfering with his business. But most important, the CEO told me that he thought the Chairman who called him was a “horse’s ass” and that therefore he would take a pass on the candidate.
It may be stupid. It may be petty, but why take a chance? If they had wanted to check references prior to making an offer, the Chairman would have made a good reference.
The point of all this is not to give a reference before it is asked for.
Do any of my readers have a reference story to share? I would love your comments.
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