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TL;DR:

  • My currently-unemployed partner is looking for a job. I recommended them for a position in my company.
  • I discovered afterwards that they would work in my department should they get the position
  • I have told HR they're my partner but not the managers of the department (i.e. my manager and my manager's manager)

When should I tell the managers the person I recommended is actually my partner?


My partner, whose career is similar to mine, is currently unemployed. They found a job offer at the company I'm currently working for, and I offered them to recommend them for the position. I recommended them because I truly think they would be great for that position, so I told the HR department about them and sent them their résumé and covering letter. HR told me to also send it to the technical department they would work for should they get the position, and that department is mine. So I also sent their application to my manager's boss, i.e. my second-level manager.

My partner will have their meeting with both HR and management tomorrow. The person who handled their application in HR is someone I know well and so I told her that they are my partner in life. The thing is, I discovered when they received their invitation to the interview that the person who would manage them, should they get the position in my company, is my own manager. Neither my manager's manager nor my manager, whom I forwarded their application to, is aware that they are my partner in life.

When should I tell my manager that the person I recommended for the position? Should I also tell my manager's manager?

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    So you sent the application to your manager without a single word about your relationship? This sounds like you concealed this fact. If you go tell them afterwards, it may look like you intentionally lied to them. I would just pretend that it was not important in your opinion and do nothing about it in advance. It's obvious that you're somehow affiliated to a person you recommend. – sbo Jan 21 at 11:02
  • @sboesch I didn't want to sound like I was recommending them because they're my partner, and that I did this because we need the money or that my view of their skills and worth is biased (love is blind, isn't it what they say?) – Hazel Jan 21 at 11:11
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    Not directly regarding the question, but would it be ok for both of you if you had to work in the same team/ on the same topic? You should ask yourself if it is a good idea to work in the same department with the possibility of working directly together. I'm pretty sure it would affect my relationship and work badly if I had to work with my partner. – Lehue Jan 21 at 16:38
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    Please be aware that having your partner as a coworker might lead to ... complications. Problems from the workplace might spill over into your private life and vice versa, and you might want to set up some boundaries in advance to avoid the worst of it. – Nzall Jan 22 at 8:26
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    @sboesch That looks a lot like an answer and not too much like a comment. – rath Jan 22 at 12:28
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You don't have to but I feel like being on the same team it could also be unavoidable.

Just simply email your manager and state,

Hi x, I just wanted to inform you that the person I have recommended and has interviewed with yourself is actually my partner. I'm only telling you this to be transparent and not to affect the hiring. Regards, Ava.

I would send this after the interview so it doesn't seem like you're trying to affect the interview stage. This means that your partner will be interviewed like every other candidate just to be sure they have completed it fairly.

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    I wouldn't even mention "affecting hiring", instead, turning around the sentence: "Hi x. In the interest of full disclosure, the candidate that you'll be interviewing at HH:MM is my partner/spouse. Regards, Ava." ... – Matthieu M. Jan 21 at 14:55
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    I can find reasons for asking both before or after the interview. One thought is it could be beneficial to mention it before in case their partner discloses that they already work there. Since they're not trying to hide your relationship, before may be better in case there are issues with them being hired into the same department. – Xrylite Jan 21 at 20:03
  • While I'd agree that you don't have to if the person just happened to apply for the position and you hadn't recommended them and were in no way involved in the hiring process, but I don't really agree that you don't have to if you recommended them. Perhaps there's not a legal requirement, but it will make you look dishonest if you don't disclose that. – reirab Jan 22 at 4:58
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    "You don't have to" - Depending on the company you very well might. – Ethan The Brave Jan 22 at 15:06
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IMO you should inform your direct manager that the recommendation they are interviewing is sent from you and is your partner before they enter the interview. Stress the fact that you are doing it as a full disclosure, not as incentive to hire. If that information is important, your manager should inform his/her manager.

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    Does the manager not already know about "sent from you" part? – Sourav Ghosh Jan 21 at 13:29
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    Also, emphasize that you have been transparent with HR about this person being your partner at the time of recommending them but wanted to make sure they were also informed. – Eric Jan 21 at 22:44
  • @SouravGhosh They probably just recommended their partner to the HR but not to the department. So their manager(s) will not know unless it's brought up by the HR (especially in a bigger company). – John Hamilton Jan 22 at 5:51
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    @JohnHamilton well, the question says "HR told me to also send it to the technical department they would work for should they get the position, and that department is mine. So I also sent their application to my manager's boss, i.e. my N+2 manager."..so it's likely the manager alraedy knows. – Sourav Ghosh Jan 22 at 6:13
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    @raznagul N is me, N+1 is my manager, N+2 is the manager of my manager – Rafalon Jan 22 at 11:33
7

There are two scenarios I can think of:

Scenario 1:

Did you put the recommendation through a proper channel? (Like, a career portal or job posting referral program)? If yes, in that case IMHO, it really does not matter what is your relation with the candidate (as long as you are not the one conducting the interview and / or associated with the hiring process). You are just the one connecting a probable candidate to a hiring authority - your exact relation with the candidate does not matter.

You can, have an informal disclosure if you wish, but chances are, that may end up looking like you are trying to influence, actively or passively, the interview and hiring process by stating the connection.

Make sure that you are not part of the hiring process - that should be sufficient enough action from your side to stay clear of any confusion.

Scenario 2:

On the other hand, if the recommendation is made on a case-basis (i.e., without an internal or external publication for the requirement where others are open to submit references or recommendation, too) - you should have the disclosure stating how you know the candidate and why are you referring him/her for the position, before the hiring process is started (that means, now).

Point to note: even in this case also, the exact relation should not matter, but since you are the communicator about the possible opportunity, a disclosure is expected to make sure you are not using the "information" (about the possible opportunity) for your individual purpose.

Moral of the story:

The final decision will be taken based on the conducted interview - you or your relation to the candidate has got to play no role in that. Only thing to ensure that, you did not use the information about the opportunity in a wrong way (by giving preference).

Once the positive (hopefully) result comes, you can take your partner to introduce to your colleagues and manager and mention your relation - I don't think that's going to be an issue - at all.

  • This seems off base to me. I can't see how the hiring manager would care that they "took advantage of the job listing." After all, they're certainly hoping someone will apply. (If there were a legal or policy concern (that is, if it were "unfair" in some way) HR should have already flagged it.) – employee-X Jan 21 at 13:29
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    @employee-X It's not about the application, it's about the "recommendation". Knowing that the candidate applied and posting a recommendation without disclosing the relationship this close - may raise some questions / concerns about the fairness of the recommendation. That's all I'm saying. – Sourav Ghosh Jan 21 at 13:39
1

This may somewhat depend on opinion and on your general approach to management or behaviour in the workplace - in short, it's subjective.

I personally would flag any and all communication, to anybody, in the context of recruiting someone, with my affiliation. Not only for partners, but for friends or generally anybody I have previous knowledge of.

The issue is that the simple fact that the applicant became visible to the company through you "embellishes" their standing; since obviously you have a good opinion of them or their fit to the company (or you wouldn't have brought them to attention in the first place). This, in turn, means that you are wielding, depending on your own standing, quite some power through simply forwarding their CV.

So, even if there is no law forcing you to do it, it is worthwhile to be really, really transparent about it. I would go so far as not only make this clear, but also ask in quite certain terms that if they are onboarded, they do not end up in any kind of power relationship to myself.

While it is simply good to be "clean", I would also want to avoid future situations in which I have to decide between a good, moral decision, and my personal relationship with them. Getting into conflict there is the last thing I would need in my life.

So, I would preface any communication (sending their CV etc. to a manager or HR) with something like that:

Hey Xyz, please take a look at this CV; I think they would be a good fit for position Abc. Full disclosure: they are my partner, so I'd ask not to be involved in the decision/onboarding process. If you have any questions about them, please feel free to contact them directly.

(Modify the last sentence about contacting them so it fits your HR process, i.e., just make sure they do not contact your partner through yourself.)

If you forgot to do that, that's a bit complicated, but there is no easy solution except coming out with it now.

Hey Xyz, regarding that CV, I just noticed that I forgot to alert you about the fact that they are my partner. The HR colleagues know already. I'd ask you to not involve me in the decision process; please continue the process along with HR or them directly.

0

The only possible reason to recommend another person as a candidate, is to encourage the company to employ them. There are good reasons for having such a recruitment policy, but "I recommend this candidate because he/she is my partner and is currently unemployed" isn't one of them! There is no reason to think that is the only reason why the OP has made the recommendation, but nevertheless it needs to be out in the open and known to everyone involved in the process.

In general, this ought to be made clear right from the start. It should certainly be in the partner's formal job application.

There is no general legal problem employing partners in the same company, and it may even be possible to make an employment discrimination case about it, but common sense says the information is going to emerge anyway sooner or later, so what is there to hide?

In addition to that there may be good business reasons why this restricts what work the partners can do. For example, if a finance company operates with "Chinese walls" between different branches of the company as a legal requirement, it would be nonsense to have two people in a close personal relationship outside work who are on opposite sides of the wall. If that sort of thing came to light in court, any half-competent lawyer would tear the company to shreds.

At a more mundane level, within a single computer programming team within one department, would it make sense for one partner to be formally peer-reviewing the work of the other? The common-sense answer to that is pretty obvious - it's not enough that "justice is done", it also has to be seen to be done.

  • Any recommendation comes with an agenda other than having the company employ someone. There’s nothing in the OPs post to say that recommendation was due to simply increasing the household income. As for peer review, I wouldn’t have any trouble with it. Peer reviews should be conversations about the code, not attacks or defense. – jmoreno Jan 22 at 2:12
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    I wasn't asking whether I should (have) disclose(d) this piece of information, I'm asking when should I do it regarding the current situation. You say this should've been made clear right from the start. But it wasn't. What could I do about it now? – Hazel Jan 22 at 12:23
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First the general principle. If you don't agree with this then you can ignore the rest of the answer:

It is not appropriate to make a professional recommendation for your partner without disclosing the fact of your relationship.

Even if your assessment of their abilities is objective and unbiased, what matters is that you have a very strong potential for a conflict of interest. You have a responsibility as an employee to give your best advice (or to keep quiet), and surely have done so. But the person (or, in this case, organisation) receiving your recommendation should still be permitted to take this conflict into account when deciding to what extent they can or should rely on that advice.

The reason for disclosing conflict of interest is to take out of your hands the assessment as to whether or not you've been objective. And, most importantly, to take it out of the hands of those not able to make objective assessments where they're conflicted. Even if you do happen to be objective: firstly your employer might disagree and prefer to set your recommendation aside in favour of whatever assessment they'd do of a candidate without a recommendation; and secondly even if they do agree it doesn't "look good" to have a company policy that people should be involved in hiring or assessing their own partners. Eventually that policy will trip over someone who isn't objective, which is bad because you hire a duffer and doubly bad because you should have known better.

As against that, your partner has a right in many jurisdictions, as an applicant, not to be discriminated against by virtue of their relationship status. That being the case, they may not want it disclosed at interview that they're in a relationship at all, let alone to you.

My view is that if they wanted not to disclose this then they should not have used your recommendation in the first place, but that's not a qualified legal opinion. It's the one legal concern I can think of, though, that weighs against the basic principle.

The person who handled their application in HR is someone I know well and so I told her that they are my partner in life

Ordinarily, I would say to ask this person. It's HR's job to manage the company's application processes and to make sure that everyone who needs to know about it, knows about it. It's their decision whether the interviewer should know (a) that you personally recommended this applicant; (b) your relationship to the applicant. If you're worried that they've dropped the ball and failed to tell the interviewer something important, check with them. Maybe HR deliberately intends the technical interview to be done by someone ignorant of (a) and/or (b).

So, if HR is managing things normally, then you should not tell your department anything, because by doing so you might upset the company's intended process. But you should confirm with the person you did tell, that HR has taken it into account properly (so for example, if that person thought you were just making conversation and that you'd already made the proper disclosures in the paperwork, they might at that point rush out of the room and do said paperwork).

However, this strikes me as super-weird:

HR told me to also send [their résumé and covering letter] to the technical department they would work for should they get the position, and that department is mine. So I also sent their application to my manager's boss, i.e. my second-level manager.

Normally HR would forward an application to the relevant department, they would not ask either the applicant or the recommender to resubmit the application. So it's possible HR is basically not in the loop of this recruitment process.

If the recommendation and application are just between the department and your partner, with HR taking no role, then telling HR counts for nothing. Then, if you agree with my ethical assessment and you gave your recommendation to the department, you need to disclose your relationship to the department as well as just to HR. Fortunately this is fairly easy: "I've already mentioned this to HR, but just in case they haven't passed it on, I think you're entitled to know when you consider my recommendation that I'm actually recommending my own partner".

If HR is out of the picture, and your department has had the application but never saw your recommendation then I'm not clear. I think it's a bit odd for your partner to be applying to your department and not make the connection known, but I don't think it's in any way deceptive. If you haven't made a recommendation, just passed on an application, then you have not contributed in any way towards the hiring decision, so there's no conflict of interest to worry about.

However it might create a problem: they decide to hire, they assign your partner to work directly under your supervision (or vice-versa), they discover the relationship and realise it's against company policy, they have to re-assign one of you to another role. Pain which would have been avoided if they'd known prior to making the plan. There's a difference between being legally and ethically entitled to cause a headache, and wanting to cause a headache.

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