Julia Shallcrass is an employment columnist for the NZ Herald

Julia Shallcrass: The dangers of hiring people you know

Many human resource professionals worldwide employ people known to their staff. Photo / 123RF
Many human resource professionals worldwide employ people known to their staff. Photo / 123RF

There's a saying that everyone in New Zealand is connected by two degrees of separation. How does this affect recruitment?

The start of a new year is when we are most likely to hunt for new jobs.

Many Kiwis search for jobs online or through recruitment agents, but some still find work the old-fashioned way - through someone we know.

Call it lazy or opportunistic, but finding work through someone you know is an efficient use of time. It's hard to beat finding a job through your cousin's sister-in-law's ex-husband's gardener, who you met at the neighbour's barbie.

There's a real DIY quality to finding the perfect job without relying on a recruitment agent, newspaper or internet.

Forgive us for our friendly and easy going attitudes, but we're not Kiwi unless we're keeping it casual:

"We're short on staff, always on the look-out for good workers. You keen?"

And the response: "Yeah, Nah, Yeah."

As a nation of mainly small and medium enterprises, employing someone we know saves time and costs of recruitment.

It can be reassuring if we already have an established relationship with a job candidate, or if they come recommended by people we trust.

Many human resource professionals worldwide employ people known to their staff.

Some companies reward staff for finding recruits amongst their friends. This practice makes financial sense, as employees with friends at work are more likely to be engaged and productive in their jobs.

So, employing people we know always works well, right? Wrong.

Opening up the Candidate Pool

Let's face it, we are attracted to people who remind us of ourselves. "Like hunting? Enjoy a spot of fishing? You're in!"

If we have employed someone we know it's likely that we have chosen a Mini-Me, rather than the best person for the job.

To find the best candidate, you should advertise a position to generate a selection of candidates. Following a formal selection process can reduce the risk of bias.

Even if you think you have found Mr or Ms Right, you should meet for a structured interview and conduct background checks before offering the job.

Sometimes employers short-circuit the selection process because they want to hire someone they know.

Sometimes employers short-circuit the selection process because they want to hire someone they know.

One of my colleagues was interviewed overseas for a position as a social worker.

Despite my colleague having stronger credentials and experience for the role, the chosen candidate was a local known to the selection panel. She was chosen primarily because she was someone they knew. Problems emerged with her performance, and she lasted less than three months in the role.

This shows that it's not always good to hire those you know. Consider the effect on your business if you have to deal with early resignations, invoke trial periods, or manage poor performance. Always consider how you can recruit the best candidate for your company.

Tips for Recruitment

These tips are particularly pertinent if you are recruiting people you know:

1. Unbiased interview panel. Reduce the risk of interviewer bias by engaging someone outside the organisation on the interview panel.

2. Check suitability against your selection criteria. Does your job candidate's skills and experience match job requirements? Refer to your Job Description. Consider using structured interviews and work sample testing, such as asking a mechanical assistant to change a tyre.

3. Offer an employment agreement. It is not sufficient to verbally offer work on Monday. Provide all staff with a written employment agreement and time to seek advice before they start work.

- NZ Herald

For more information, attend Julia’s webinars on Effective Recruitment through CCH Learning. Email Julia for a free check-list on recruitment: Julia@kiwiboss.co.nz.

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