They are human, so I told the recruiter

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, January 03, 2007 at 12:19 PM with 2 comments

I have been fortunate to work with some excellent programmers, developers and designers in my career. As a result of this cadre of colleagues, I am frequently called upon to give a recommendation on their behalf to a potential future employer. Where I am always willing to spend the time required to extol his or her virtues, I have to admit that I am partially biting my lip when I get the call.

As the years have gone by and technology has progressed, the questions, unfortunately, have remained the same. These questions tend to be direct, and the person on the other end of the phone is looking for a direct, to-the-point response. A call always starts well, asking my relationship with the candidate. On occasion they ask about me, which I think is a plus. Then come the predictable trio – what are their strengths, their weaknesses and would you work with them again. The first part is easy, as I roll out the words I prepared to say when the candidate initially asked me for the recommendation.

When it comes to weaknesses, I have always struggled here. I would never give a recommendation to anyone who I feel does not deserve it. I have never received a “blind” call, or one I was not expecting, as I have told my colleagues to ask me first, so I am prepared for it. When I hear the word weaknesses, I perceive this is the recruiter asking for a reason for the company not to hire this candidate – maybe it’s in the tone or inflection of their voice.

I have a new answer to this question, “they are human.” I say it, and then I pause. Sometimes I get a chuckle on the other end of the phone, many times dead air. I then continue by saying that I would never give a recommendation for anyone that I felt did not deserve it, and that nobody is a 100% perfect match for any job, or 100% every single day. Many times I get, “fair enough” and on occasion they press me more, but I hold my position. And by this answer, you can guess my answer to if I will work with them again.

I cannot recall a recruiter ask me for specific examples of a scenario and how it played out, or ask how the person would react to a certain situation. They may not be looking for that kind of information, and calling me is more of a "spaghetti test" or courtesy than a means for gaining insight into this person. Maybe it is just my expectation of what I want to know from a candidate, such as what they read, how they keep up on the industry, etc. for you are hiring a human and not just what they will do for you.

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