The Faults in Hiring your Secretary’s Nephew


You posted the vacancy, and received 30 applications. In two hours. By the end of the week it is well into the hundreds and the vacancy needs to be prematurely pulled. So do you continue with the daunting task of finding the candidate-needle in the application haystack, the academic diamond in the rough, the high-potential limited edition toy among the mediocre cereal flakes…or do you just scrap the recruitment process altogether?

Discovering that Gary from HR’s brother’s step-daughter could fill the position advertised can seem like a sign that the search for a (possibly non-existent) ‘perfect candidate’ should end. This move caters to an aspect of human nature which psychologists Mark Lepper and Sheena Iyengar dubbed the ‘paradox of choice’ (after a study showed that people presented with six varieties of jam were more likely to purchase one as opposed to customers who were shown a variety of 24). But there are other ways to narrow down jam varieties, and job applicants, to produce optimal results whilst still picking from the full selection. Internet recruitment profiles can easily display and filter down your options without the paperwork.

Surely Gary from HR’s brother’s step-daughter can’t be that bad, maybe she could be great; but do you really want to be building a team of ‘could-be-great’s and ‘not-that-bad’s? It is a skill in itself to be able to amass connections and cut out the middle man, but this hire could turn into a sour situation once family, friends and colleagues are mixed. Exercise caution by ensuring you don’t let pitfalls in their application slide – be as fair as you would with any applicant to serve yours and the company’s best interests.

Considering the rising popularity in hiring through company employees, with almost half of company positions filled by referrals in some large organisations, and news circulating of a Silicon Valley start-up company that offers $20,000 for each hired tech-employee referral, what are the benefits of external applicants, and why should you stick with the recruitment process?

  • Keeping business separate – Statistics show that referrals are more likely to become long-term employees, but this would be the expected situation when an employer may prefer to avoid the added tension of firing somebody with personal connections. You don’t want to be stuck with somebody who isn’t pulling their weight in the fear of disrupting work dynamics or severing relationship ties.
  • There’s more than just fish in the sea – if you aren’t aware of the outside pool of talent, you may not even know that there are candidates out there who could lift your business to the next level.  Furthermore, by the end of the process the finalists will have passed through so many filters you may as well have designed them yourself.
  • Professional backbone – One could argue that the external candidates have an even better work ethic, pushing forward with their applications without aides from inside the companies. These aspects could make them more resilient and less sensitive to rejection or directional advice.
  • Diversity – Employees are more likely to refer candidates who share their attributes, mind sets and attitudes, which can result in a lack of different perspectives, backgrounds and skills. In a Federal Reserve Bank of New York
    Staff Report entitled ‘Do Informal Referrals Lead to Better Matches?’, it emerged that “the majority of referral matches are between people of the same gender (63.5%), the same race or ethnicity (71.5%), and the same division (73.2%), indicating a high degree of homophily in referrals”
  • It’s good for the economy – ignoring the streams of public applicants only contributes to youth-unemployment, which stands not too far from 1 million 18-24 year olds in the UK alone. Broadening the range of applicants and increasing opportunity can bring great benefits to all industries in the future.


So how do you get through the recruitment process? Establishing a solid internship program within your company is a brilliant way to test potentially permanent candidates to see if they deliver. You are not expected to trawl through every individual application – which is where Intern Avenue can become your recruitment aide, or professional match-maker, connecting you with your dream applicants.





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