Pros and cons of hiring a stranger

Getting Started Feb 25, 2016

People tend to hire job candidates who are referred by a trusted source. This puts a stranger with better qualifications at a disadvantage. Make the process fairer and more productive by creating a comfortable atmosphere and creating opportunities for the interview to be a discussion rather than a Q&A session.

You might not personally know every person you hire, but have you ever hired someone with whom you had no prior acquaintance and no personal referral?

The majority of people who get hired are referred by an employee or another trusted contact rather than by a recruiter or answering an ad. There’s nothing wrong with hiring people you know but you could be missing out on some excellent candidates or pigeonholing “strangers” into jobs that limit the use of their skills. Here’s how to turn strangers into acquaintances and why you should.

There’s nothing wrong with hiring people you know but you could be missing out on some excellent candidates.

Why acquaintances have the upper hand

When someone you know personally or professionally refers a job candidate to you, there is already a comfort level established. You may already know, or think you know, that the candidate is qualified for the job. You can spend more time getting to know him as a person and may be more open to tailoring the job to fit the candidate.

By contrast, when interviewing a stranger, you’re more likely to stick to the script, matching the resume against the list of criteria for the job, and possibly not exposing other qualities he has to offer that could be beneficial to the company. 

Although there’s a greater degree of comfort in hiring someone you feel you already know, this isn’t always an option. That’s why you should learn to break down the barrier between strangers and acquaintances.

Turn strangers into acquaintances

A formal interview between two strangers is seldom comfortable for the interviewer or the interviewee. Here are some suggestions for making it easier and more fruitful.

  • Ask the candidate to submit a sample of their work in advance of meeting them. It’ll give your discussion a starting point.
  • Meet off-site. A coffee shop (or your employee lunchroom) is a neutral locale and less imposing than an office or conference room. That doesn’t mean you should dumb-down the interview, but a few sips of coffee can fill awkward silences.
  • If time doesn’t permit you to leave the office, take the candidate on a tour first. Point out different areas he might be working in and take time to explain what your company does and answer his questions.
  • If a tour isn’t appropriate, show the candidate some completed projects or products and ask his opinion.
  • Ask the candidate to bring in samples of her work or ask her to describe a work accomplishment she’s especially proud of.
  • Treat the candidate as you would a contractor or consultant. Discuss a project she might be asked to work on or how she might go about solving a particular problem.
  • If the candidate seems promising, and time permits (and it doesn’t present a conflict), ask if she would be willing to work on a project.
  • Schedule brief get-to-know you interviews with other key people or groups in the company. Group interviews can help gauge the compatibility of people who would ultimately be working together.

You may still end up hiring someone who was referred by a colleague, but you will have leveled the playing field for candidates you don’t know. This puts you in a better position to find the right person for the job.

Kelly Burkart is a freelance writer from Minneapolis, Minn. While she has spent most of her time writing about financial services the past 15 years, she has also explored and written about everything from cardiovascular health to travel, higher education and sustainable energy practices.

Article by KELLY BURKART, Content Strategist/writer