Referrals- The Blind Dating of Recruiting


May 20, 2010

Blind dates.

We’ve all had them, right?  You know, when you’re in a slump in between relationships and you just can’t seem to meet the “right” person.  Suddenly, your mom, sister, or friend knows of someone who “would be perfect for you”.  You mind begins racing with images of the worst possible people to be paired up with.  Are they smart, funny, or friendly?  Are they desperate?  Are you?  You agree and proceed to spend the 6- 8 most miserable hours of your life staring at someone who picks their teeth or has strong views on everything from politics to breakfast cereal.

Then, there are the blind dates that really work out.  When you have a matchmaker that really knows both people and realizes there are many commonalities.  This matchmaker takes into account that in addition to the commonalities, there are also some interesting differences that may lead to a great relationship.  Maybe they know that you have always wanted to spend more time outdoors hiking, rock climbing, and skiiing.  They match you with someone who already loves those hobbies.  Perfect.  The matchmaker also is willing to tell you why they think you’re a match.  They give details.  They give you the dirt.

Well, hiring should be like that.  I have read enough articles in my day in Cosmo and Men’s Health to know a little bit about what you need to make the best possible relationship match.  Here we go:

  • Tell it like it is–  Now is your chance to set the expectations and say exactly what you are looking for in a person for the role.  Most job descriptions only give you the skills or experience needed in corporate speak.  Get real and get results.  Use job descriptions that say exactly what you want like Daxko does.
  • TRUST the matchmaker–  A referral is only as good as the person making the recommendation.  If the employee making the referral is a poor performer, shady, or all-around sneaky employee, I wouldn’t put credibility in their assessment.  Make sure you’re asking those strong contributors who you should be talking to.
  • Decode the situation–  Here’s where you need to get the dirt.  Ask specific questions to ensure the potential candidate not only has the skills, but the ability to thrive in the environment.  Dig for as much info as you can.
  • Be ready to bail–  Have your exit strategy from the start.  Maybe you get through questioning the referrer and realize that this will not be a match to the position you are filling.  Have a strategy that makes the referrer feel valued but that clearly says this is not the person for the job.  Don’t just talk skills, talk culture.

So, what did I miss?  What blind date takeaways do you have for handling referred candidates?


  • What is wrong with having strong views on breakfast cereal? I see that as an important litmus test. For the record – Captain Crunch with Crunchberries.

    I guess the only thing I would add to your post would be that in blind date scenarios people tend to push ‘dates’ that are very similar to themselves, and not necessarily those that are a good fit or match for the person being set up on the date in the first place.

    • @Steve- Wow, who knew you were one of those fanatic cereal guys?

  • “…in blind date scenarios people tend to push ‘dates’ that are very similar to themselves, and not necessarily those that are a good fit or match for the person being set up on the date in the first place.”

    Echoing Steve here…I have found that to be true both with blind dates AND referrals! 😉

  • I love this post- It really says it all!! You get this resume, you like & respect the person that gave it to you so you don’t want to hurt their feelings by saying you’re not interested. It’s a tough line to walk. But once in a while you get a great referral- which makes you take a chance again in the future.

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.


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