Here is my situation…. I applied for a position, and was interviewed only to never be contacted again after the standard thank you notes were sent.
I’ve found out that the company I interviewed with is e-mailing people who worked with applicants, but who weren’t listed as references. You see, they sent an email to my current company in regards to another applicant. They sent it to someone who replaced this person, asking about his work, and why he left. I was asked about it, and not knowing anything (but secretly noting the email and the context in which it was sent), suggested it be forwarded to HR. We’re a small company (less than 50 people), so everyone knew about it.
My worry is that I left my previous position due to problems stemming from my supervisor passing me over for projects, and giving them to others in the group (I was the sole female in a group of 8). I left my position suddenly when finding another position, and giving no notice. I am concerned that this may have been related to the company if they contacted my previous employer, as they did for the fellow whose email I saw.
I know you don’t like the “is this legal” question, but I was wondering what I can do to minimize the impact from their contact if I ever have this happen again. I seriously doubt that I want to work for a company that doesn’t ask for permission to do this, as I question what other information they obtain without disclosure. I’m considering the previous position a lost cause, even though they are still searching for someone to fill it (I interviewed 2 months ago).
There are numerous things to talk about here. Let’s start with the part where we pick on recruiters. NOTIFY YOUR CANDIDATES ABOUT THE STATUS OF THE JOB THEY INTERVIEWED FOR.
Okay. Now I feel better. In today’s day of e-mail and voicemail, there is no reason why a recruiter can’t take 30 seconds to send a form e-mail or leave a voicemail saying, “Thank you so much for taking the time to interview with us. We will keep your resume on file for one year and will contact you if we have a position we feel potentially matches your skill set.” It’s cold, it’s impersonal, but at least it tells the candidate that they aren’t still being considered. And for heaven’s sake, if the candidate is still being considered but the bureaucracy is holding things up, tell the person. I’m sure someone else has a better canned e-mail. I’m not a recruiter, after all.
Now, let’s talk about contacting people not listed as references. As a candidate, I would hate that. As someone who has seen the unpleasant results of bad hiring, I stand behind it 100%.
In my experience (not true of everyone’s experiences, I know), reference checks are a huge waste of time. Why? Because a candidate that is at all competent is not going to give you the name of someone that despises him. He’s going to list people who like him. If I don’t personally know the reference, how can I judge the accuracy of what is being said? “Bob is a fantastic worker! I wish I had 3 people like Bob working for me.” Great. But that tells me squat, other than you like Bob enough to say that.
Conversely, if a recruiter requires a former manager to be listed, what proof do I have that you really were Bob’s manager. “Hi, Karen, this is Evil HR Lady. I’m doing a reference check for Bob. When were you his supervisor?” Karen could be a true former boss, or she could be a next door neighbor who is pretending to be a former boss. You really don’t know.
But, to contact the company directly–ahh, that removes some of problems. You know you are getting someone that actually worked for Bob’s prior company. You don’t know if the person you are contacting is rational or not, however. (Of course, you don’t ever know this on a reference check unless the person is known to you or is so incredibly crazy that they start screeching into the phone.) The recuiter may actually be able to find out something interesting. “Oh, Bob. Yeah, he was fired right after I got here.” Or, “Man, I took Bob’s job and I’m never going to be able to live up to his reputation. Everyone still talks about Bob this, and Bob that.”
Now, for the record, I think any recruiter that does this at the candidates current company is pond scum. Bob may well be conducting his job search in secret and it is unfair to him and to your company’s reputation to pull stunts like that. But a former company seems to me to be fair game.
(And I note that some industries are so close knit that by calling a former company you may as well call the candidates current boss because word spreads like wild fire. But, Bob would know that.)
You want to avoid this going in. You may not be able to. One thing you can do is ask that they contact you before they contact any references, stated or not. You can also ask if they intend to contact people not listed. Of course, this makes it sound like you have something to hide.
The moral of the story is that you never burn bridges (if you can help it–sometimes the bridge is already on fire, and there’s not much you can do about it.) People talk and even though you never thought you’d need a reference from some former boss, he may be asked about you anyway.