Question

I went to work as an engineer at a company when it was quite small. Then it got taken over by a large company that got swallowed by another company. We are growing by leaps and bounds. In fact, we are moving to a new office as we are bursting at the seams.

Many people have worked here since the 1980s, and there are growing pains. Part of the challenge is adapting to big corporate ways. I learned a few days ago that direct managers are no longer tasked with interviewing. Rather, someone else interviews and then the manager is told who is coming on board.

Right now I’m trying to help a former coworker hired. Of course, my boss is not supposed to interview him. How do we get past HR and the recruiter? Any advice on how to get a friend hired?

Nick’s Reply

get a friend hiredSo now the recruiters run the asylum? And control who gets hired? Perhaps you should reconsider subjecting your friend to that, and perhaps ask yourself whether you want to continue working for a company whose managers are not involved in selecting their new hires.

It will be interesting to see how the best managers cope with this. I suspect they will develop a black market for hiring, out of necessity. They will create their own recruiting and hiring channels, but make it appear HR is in control.

I’ll start with a suggestion to the managers in your company (if I don’t transgress!), then we’ll talk about what you can do to help get a friend hired at your company. I would not talk to HR or to the recruiter. (You can also help a friend get a job elsewhere.)

It was just lunch!

If I were a manager, I’d find my own good candidates and take them out to lunch.

Interview? What interview? I didn’t break the new HR rule. I just went to lunch!

If I decided to hire the person, I’d instruct them to submit their resume to the recruiter and indicate that they are interested in working in my department. Then I’d get in touch with the recruiter and say, “Someone I respect just told me So-and-So is a great engineer who’s being heavily recruited by our Competitor X. Any chance that person’s resume or application is in your system?”

HR recruiters love being in control, but they love making their jobs easier even more. I’d nag the recruiter if necessary until I confirmed the candidate was interviewed and issued an offer.

How to get a friend hired

Since you’re not a manager, you have even more degrees of freedom. I think you can get your friend hired if you go the extra mile. This is just one suggestion to get the ball rolling. I hope readers will chime in with more ideas!

Ask your boss out to lunch. Say you’re meeting an old friend — an engineer from your last employer. “We always have fun talking shop. You’d fit right in.“

Interview? What interview? We’re just having lunch!

During this casual meeting offsite, your boss will have a chance to learn about your buddy without pressure. Of course, if interest is sparked, after lunch your boss must be assertive enough to go talk to HR and say, “I just learned a great engineer is being recruited by our Competitor X…”

You know the old expression, “You can’t wash your hands with rubber gloves on.” Well, managers can’t run successful operations if somebody else is picking their new employees.

I think you have a lot more influence — and control — than you suspect. After all, don’t you want to be working with the best people? Someone’s got to help your company’s managers subvert a silly new policy!

I’d love to hear more suggestions from readers!

Have you ever helped get a friend hired at your company? How did you pull it off? Did HR handle it expeditiously?  Were you paid a referral fee? Did your personal recommendation clear the path for interviews? Who does the candidate selection and hiring at your company? 

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27 Comments
  1. That’s a great suggestion. I was once one of the last people left working for my company after much of my team dissolved. I had managed to keep in touch with some of the guys and often had lunch. I managed over the span of about 6 months to get two really solid developers hired back into the company as it turned out their new positions weren’t working out the best.

    Business lunches are great for recruiting.

  2. An aside, some companies are good to work for but have terrible hiring practices. You know, most successful companies do one (maybe two) things really well…

    Meeting for coffee is an easy way for managers to network and develop a talent pool.

    Ask their direct reports for introductions to one or two people they respect.

    Meet someone for coffee once a week.

    At the end of a year, there are fifty professional contacts.

    • @Gregory: It just flattens me that, among recruiting methods employers invest in, this simple, obvious recruiting method ranks about #99 while Indeed is #1, LinkedIn #2, and every “HR Tech” tool and ATS suck up virtually every recruiting dollar spent by HR departments.

      And that’s even considering how much more fun lunch is than an ATS!

      My advice to employers stands: If every manager in your company is not spending 15%-20% of their time every week recruiting (doesn’t matter whether or not they are currently hiring), then they’re not really managing.

      • Recruiting. I think you’ve put your finger on one of the major disconnects between HR and line managers…and unfortunately passive managers. The definition of “recruiting”
        Their idea of recruiting is advertising, processing responses and interviews. that’s it. And you ONLY did this when there was an open job.

        Not sourcing. HR & some managers treat finding people like a faucet, when you need people you turn on the faucet even if the hose is dry

        Where savvy managers don’t wait to recruit until the need arises, they’re always recruiting, primarily up front networking/sourcing.

        One of my maxims is in this day & age there’s layers of lawyers standing behind everyone, & I’ve run across HR people who certainly think they’re standing behind them. And twitterpate intensely if they notice managers in contact with potential hires…sans a req. In fear this poor ignorant manager will say there’s a job available, ie. making false claims that will fuel a lawsuit or some such from a disgruntled person.

        Let him give you an example per your lunch idea. On my last job as an internal recruiter I reported to the VP of HR (who overall was a good HR guy & who I recruited into the company for that job). When he noticed I was taking some candidates to lunch he objected. Logic being, if you take one candidate, you need to take them all. Fairness? or grist for claims of unfairness by other candidates?

        I always used lunchtimes,(or dinner) when I managed, when I recruited. Some things get over-engineered. 1) for open jobs Yes at times I deliberately set it up that way, perhaps as a courtesy e.g. someone who traveled a long way, other times for best use of both our times, sometimes as a courtesy, sometimes to extend talking time, sometimes as bait for other company interviewer who I knew wouldn’t turn down a free lunch when seemingly they never could find time to interview someone.

        and 2) networking, for myself or hiring managers who I felt would benefit.

      • @Nick: Since I am on a roll…

        Have a poll tournament twice a year. Free wings. Door prizes.

        A corner with the trifold, and some information about the department. The Director and some managers standing there to talk shop.

        A few thousand dollars at most.

        • @Gregory: Some will think you’re out of your mind but it’s a great idea. I remember a company in Silicon Valley called Tandem Computers (they built some of the first redundant systems) that had a company swimming pool onsite. On Fridays they had pool parties and engineers could invite their friends for beers, snacks and a dip. Best recruiting dollars ever spent!

  3. Does anybody have any suggestion for how to make this work in the era of remote work and Zoom meetings? How can I go out to lunch with somebody who is 2000 miles away?

    • Virtual Coffee

      Make an appointment (just like meeting for coffee)
      Show up with your favorite work-appropriate beverage.
      Start Zoom (or whatever app)
      Chat for whatever amount of time you have scheduled.
      Follow up with an email.

      I did this during my last job search.

      • It sounds so simple when you put it that way! :)
        I was stuck on the idea that a virtual meeting makes things more “formal” than meeting an acquaintance for lunch at a local restaurant, but I guess it doesn’t have to be.
        Thanks!

        • I think that is why “virtual coffee” was coined (although I never thought about it before).

          While not the same as live, I have found it works well

        • @Ed: Psychologically, I think it’s important to have that mug of coffee on the Zoom call, and to actually drink it — even to pause the call to get a refill. Also important, SLOW DOWN your pace of talking, discuss topics unrelated to work, and, I’d even suggest, schedule the call to discuss something OTHER than just work so that the discussion doesn’t turn too intense. Just like you would when actually meeting for coffee.

          For example, identify something the other person or their company recently accomplished — e.g., launched a new product, was quoted in an article, wrote a great blog post, won an award — and discuss that over coffee. Then let the topic of employment flow from that.

          Keep the focus on coffee! Keep everyone casual.

  4. “…someone else interviews and then the manager is told who is coming on board.”

    Yep, control freaks definitely run this company. THIS is why “We are growing by leaps and bounds” is not always a good thing.

    “Someone’s got to help your company’s managers subvert a silly new policy!”

    Really?

    Isn’t it just as “silly” as this marching order from HR that was a hot subject of discussion only a few months ago: “Only pre-approved recruiters are allowed to submit candidates.” After all, the OP stated “How do we get past HR and the recruiter?” That’s plural folks – “AND” the recruiter. Can you say n-a-r-c-i-s-s-i-s-t-i-c?! LOL.

    Same drama…different day.

    So, instead of changing such “silly” policies, everyone at the company is going to play lunch date cloak-and-dagger games and act like no one knows what the deal is?

    Wonder what other time/profit wasting politics is played at this asylum on a daily basis?

    Good luck…

  5. Gawd!
    Bursting at the seams, need people so bad HR’s going to help by finding people and sending them over.

    The common denominator is someone’s got to find the right people and bring them aboard. And what’s stuck to new hires like glue is accountability for the choice and the resultant performance. In the usual scheme of things the Hiring Manager has to account for those 2 things.

    If one could follow this story it would be great to see how it plays out. When HR finds out it was either 1) snookered into this scheme, or 2) brought on themselves more than they bargained for they’ll turn and run.

    It’s common for passive hiring managers (those who don’t actively seek their own new hires) to toss a stone at HR for not providing good resumes when they aren’t meeting hiring goals. With this scheme it won’t be a stone HM’s will be tossing grenades..
    Questions. Hiring Manager, why did you miss your delivery dates, why does the quality suck?
    Answer. Ask HR they sent over people who haven’t a clue.

    And in the world I lived in…you did NOT want that spotlight on you. Now HR’s have another out..

    And since all hiring is centralized, so is the attention. The name of the game in a raging growth scenario is getting butts in seats. Your friendly HR and/or recruiter will be running in place trying to fill holes ASAP, while dodging those aforementioned grenades.

    So a savvy manager will work the system, and flip the coin. Instead of HR “helping” the HM to find people your
    friendly HM will help HR. With referrals as Nick suggested. An inferred incentive is that said referral is at least one person the HM won’t blame them for bringing aboard.

    Another related approach is to de facto absorb that HR or recruiter into your organization..if they pass muster. And most will. The writer didn’t say so, but most likely HR will effect specialization by assigning their reps to “support” certain organizations. If so the hiring manager can completely absorb their time, smother them with kindness, find them a place to sit near you, teach them, train them to recognize “qualified” whatever floats your boat.

    If you make this work, you’ve picked up an extra person who you don’t have to pay for (in HR’s budget). You make them an honorary team member. HR will love it, because it maps into their dream of an HR/line organization “partnership”. With the right recruiters, they too gain a lot too, e.g. true savvy. If you also provide them with a venue to interview..in your shop..the HM or designate, can “sit in”. When it’s really working, you bring the HR person along to that lunch. You turn that recruiter, into YOUR recruiter

    An active HM, will simply need to “refer” people to the HR team member and it will become a seamless system. The hands won’t touch the wrist. And the HR person will have a great track record, reinforcing the approach.

    And when HR gets their hands burned and ass kicked for screwing up production, they’ll fall back to the old system. And when they do, you’ll have a recruiting asset you can trust to well-vet potential new hires.

    • @Don: Clients have paid me a lot of money to “teach HR how to do it like a headhunter” — and the main thing I help them do is embed a good recruiter in the department they will be recruiting for! A recruiter that learns the lingo, the technology, the problems, the challenges, the work flow, and the culture can do amazing work.

      Hey, that’s how a good headhunter works! Wow, that’s something, isn’t it? :-)

      • And a smart HR Manager will jump at the suggestion. As I said they have this dream that you don’t support the organization, you partner with them. An approach I’ve seen a # of times which resulted in a flying thud.

        And similarly what I saw work very well in a fast growth frenzied scenario like the writer describes is the organization head (in my case Director level), assigned me as his recruiting point man in addition to my day job. Not because he was recruiting savvy, but because his VP mandated every department would do so. I in turn
        team played with an internal recruiter who I knew from a previous similar company. Worked well.

  6. On the bright side, this company’s workforce will be absolutely perfectly balanced along race/gender/sexual orientation/religion and maybe even age lines.

    I expect a slurry of HR-generated pride posts on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc within a year. I also suspect this was the goal of this policy in the first place: can’t trust those managers to hire in the socially responsible way.

    • “I expect a slurry of HR-generated pride posts on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc…”

      How true.

      Evidence proven by HR hiring practices over the last few years they seem to care less about hiring based upon performance in favor of inflating their community “diversity/wokeness” score card.

    • Spot on right!

  7. Per the Dalai Lama, “Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively” In general, HR recruiters are more about checking boxes, keeping you compliant and legal but when it comes to recruiting the best talent; do it yourself. As for hiring friends, I was always cautious… friends are friends until their not. A dynamic culture takes it toll on personalities and can bring out the best or worst in friends. Hire for talent not friendship. As for HR… I always respected their advice but in the end did what was best for the company.

  8. Sounds like a good place to recruit from.

    Starting with the managers!

    LOL!

    • @Paul, you sound just like a headhunter.

      • Coming from you, Nick, that’s a compliment!

        LOL!

      • Ours is one of the few businesses where it’s always possible to turn lemons into lemonade…

        • And where yin and yang are the same! There’s always a deal to be had, if you just stop and think about how you can add value for the employer and the candidate.

  9. Recruiting is at its heart a sales function. With smidgens of Purchasing thrown in. The situation described here is like asking a Purchasing or sales agent to work with out a phone/fax or computer. I’m betting the folks in this scenario maybe younger and lack the perspective to see all the red flags here. There hasn’t been a candidates market, as opposed to a hiring company market, since the 2000s. Make sure you have the best employment situation NOW.

    • @ Yoomi
      You have an interesting analogy with sales and purchasing, and solid perspective too, in the recruiting process.
      Years ago, I worked for a family owned steel company that was a dumpster fire from the get go. A colleague at another location told me “they treat people and hiring like buying commodities (steel). So true. Sadly, this company made a practice out of hiring competitors “dead wood” or “problem employees” who’d been terminated, often under mysterious or questionable circumstances. Made for a Wild West show.
      I’m still seeing this “commodity buying” mentality in hiring out there, coupled with a “fog a mirror/have a pulse you’re hired”, or “give me the tingles/you’re hired”. No “tell and sell” on the buyer’s part either. “Make sure you have the best employment NOW”.
      Amen!

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