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Avoid the pitfalls of referring

By Robert Half International

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( -- Hiring new employees is tough.

Just ask managers surveyed by Robert Half International and

Eighty-one percent of those polled said today's employment market is equally or more challenging than it was only one year ago, and more than half consider a shortage of qualified workers to be their biggest recruitment hurdle.

In light of the current market, hiring managers are turning to their employees for help when filling open positions. In fact, many firms are offering everything from free dinners to time off to cash bonuses for employee referrals.

While recommending someone you know for a position with your company can benefit you financially and the organization as a whole, it's important to look before you leap.

Strongly supporting someone who does not work out or repeatedly suggesting that your manager hire unqualified candidates can affect your professional reputation. So, when it comes to making referrals, keep the following do's and don'ts in mind.

DO look beyond family and friends.

Most professionals consider only family and friends when making referrals. But don't stop with the people you know best; instead try to identify the best person for the position.

That could be someone from your professional network, a former colleague or supervisor, or even a casual acquaintance, like the woman who handed you her business card at the last industry event you attended.

DO educate a potential referral.

When approaching a contact about a position with your company, give him or her as much information as possible. Provide the person with a job description, if one is available, and describe the primary duties. Also, discuss with him or her the company's corporate culture: How is success measured? What are the people like? Are there any benefits that might be of particular interest? Be candid so you can gauge the potential referral's genuine interest in the job.

DON'T hesitate to conduct your own research.

Because your reputation is on the line, make sure know enough about the person to recommend him or her for employment with your firm. If it's a distant contact, review the person's résumé and, if necessary, conduct an informal interview to learn more about his or her qualifications.

You need to be familiar with the person's skills and experience, work habits and personality before recommending him or her to the hiring manager.

DO make sure the referral does his or her part.

Though you're lending a helping hand, the person you're referring must still approach the situation as he or she would any other employment opportunity. That means the candidate must submit a clean, well-crafted résumé and cover letter, targeted to the firm and position. If your contact doesn't seem serious about the opening, it'll be nearly impossible for you to sell your firm on his or her ability to do the job.

DO go to bat for those you believe in.

Don't be afraid to throw your weight behind someone you believe would be a great hire for your company.

In addition to submitting the candidate's résumé through the appropriate channels, walk a copy of his or her résumé to the hiring manager and offer to explain why your acquaintance is well suited for the job.

DON'T refer someone you lack confidence in.

Don't feel pressured to refer someone just because the two of you discussed an open position with your firm or because an acquaintance asked you pass his or her résumé to a hiring manager you know.

If you have doubts about a contact's qualifications, tell the person you are happy to submit the résumé to the human resources department or the hiring manager but can do nothing more.

DO keep an eye on internal job postings.

If you have access to internal job postings through your company's intranet or Web site, monitor them on a regular basis and determine if you know anyone who might be suitable for an open role.

Chances are your company will welcome multiple referrals from you, as long as the candidates you recommend are well qualified. Remember to be selective, though; referring acquaintances for every opening you see will cause your company to doubt the quality of your recommendations.

DON'T be afraid of being eclipsed.

Some people are hesitant to refer acquaintances because they worry the person will be more successful with the firm than they are.

Don't succumb to such fears. Instead, remember that the person you recommend is a reflection of you, and his or her success makes you look that much better.

A good test when making referrals is this: How would you feel working alongside the person you refer? If the thought elicits any unease whatsoever, wait until another opportunity arises and you can be confident the candidate you recommend will be a true asset to your firm.

Robert Half International is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 350 offices throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. For more information about our professional services, please visit

© Copyright 2007. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority


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