Dear Claudia,

What do you do with a manager who only hires people from his personal network? I work for a large, well-funded biotech company, and one of my hiring managers simply will not consider any candidate that hasn’t been vetted by someone he knows. I’ve worked with this manager for a long time, and we get along great – but when it comes to building his team he’s a brick wall. I’ve tried reasoning, overnighting resumes, even having a dinner party at my house once to introduce him to a great candidate whose resume he looked at and liked, but wouldn’t interview. I know I could give him a lot more options, and faster, if he’d just let me do my job. Any suggestions?

Great Ideas, Zero Impact

Dear GIZI,

I love questions like this because they describe what happens when theory meets real life. In theory, recruiting casts the widest net possible to identify the most qualified candidates that meet the requirements for the job; in real life, we integrate our knowledge, experiences, and sphere of influence to get the same job done. And if there’s one thing that in-house recruiting understands, either directly or indirectly, it’s sphere of influence – often because we have so little of it.

My advice to you in this situation is to go back and test your assumptions, which to me sound a lot like:

1. His way is crazy.
2. My way is better.

Step back and look at the results of hiring in his team. What is the turnover rate? How often are you filling vacancies, and for what reason? Are people on his team motivated, engaged, contributing, learning, growing? Is his team meeting stated goals and objectives, quarter-over-quarter? Is there a reasonable mix of diversity in the group, all things considered? If the answers to these questions indicate that your manager is doing something right, then don’t try to fix what is clearly not broken. Of course, if the reverse is true, you've got the basis for a more data-driven conversation with this manager's upline.

I suggest that you shift your attention to the higher goal of meeting the ultimate business need, instead of feeding your ego (as well-intended as it may be). Sometimes the lessons we learn in recruiting come from unexpected sources, and this time your hiring manager may be right.


In my day job, I’m the Head of Products for Improved Experience, where we help employers use feedback to measure and manage quality in hiring and retention. Learn more about us here.

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Well I think that a workplace full of Sandras and Claudias would be just fine and dandy, thank you very much.

To your point, Karen - it is important to speak the truth to a hiring manager about risk and legalities. But it's also important to advise managers from a place of data, however, and never from fear or ignorance. So a little research by the recruiter before pressing any agenda (be it risk management, or competitive candidate review) is always a wise thing to do. If you begin beating up a manager for things that aren't problems per se in his/her department, you're burning a pretty important bridge.
Great observations Claudia. I think a good starting point for any situation like this is, like you indicated, assess what's going on and whether it really needs attention. If it does I've found that just opening up the lines of communication helps. The idea is to build a relationship with one's superior where we can go with them with suggestions or simply ask questions. I'd probably just try to set aside some time to chat and just ask open-ended questions to learn more about the person's philosophy. That way I can act based on actual information. It's basically relationship building.

Take care,

Corporate Trainer

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