boss referral

How to Handle Referrals From the Boss

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: One of the top executives in my organization keeps sending me resumes of people he knows who are looking for jobs. In many cases, they’re not qualified for the openings I have available. What’s the best way to handle this situation? 

A: I’ve had to deal with this problem many times in my HR career. There really isn’t a clear-cut solution, but one of my own experiences may shed some light for you.

I once had an executive refer the mechanic at his car dealer for an administrative assistant position at our organization. I thanked him for the referral and then called the mechanic and did a thorough phone interview. I treated him like a serious applicant, even though he didn’t have the qualifications we’d posted on our website.

As we talked, it became obvious to both of us that he wasn’t qualified for the job, but almost as important, it was clear he had no interest in a job where he had to work in an office. He took himself out of consideration. I was able to report back to the executive that I’d spoken to his mechanic, who was happy doing his current job.

Treat the applicant exactly as you would treat any other applicant for the position, including asking the same screening questions.

That’s just one example. In general, follow these tips when your executive refers unqualified candidates to you:

  • Overcommunicate with the referring executive. Thank him for the referral, and let him know when you are scheduling the interview.
  • Treat the applicant exactly as you would treat any other applicant for the position, including asking the same screening questions.
  • If the referral doesn’t match your job requirements, let him or her know, just as you would any applicant.
  • Inform the executive of the outcome. Explain why the referral isn’t getting an offer, and be sure your reasons are job related.

One final note: Make sure your job requirements are up to date on your job descriptions and job postings. This may cut down on these types of referrals.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you’d like her to answer in “Ask the Expert”? Send it to [email protected].

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