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I'm heading a data team and we are hiring embedded analysts. As a last step, the analysts get interviewed by the head of the team they would be helping.

The head of one of the teams is incompetent at his job but highly political (cannot prioritise, makes requests with no value proposition, does cargo cult work - looks right on the surface, but it's actually random when you look at the data).

He referred an analyst which we put in the hiring funnel. He since rejected all candidates we sent him.

This candidate said during screening is that his favorite hobby is travelling with his friend, the incompetent manager who referred him.

At this point, I have a strong emotional bias against his candidate, because I feel he is rejecting the candidates I send until his gets processed. Additionally, since this guy is a handful for us (makes senseless requests, escalates, basically wastes our time), nobody in our team likes him and we probably would not like to hire his friend either to work in our team, regardless of competence.

What is the right thing to do in this situation? Am I wrong in my fears? Should I consider the candidate at all?

I would be responsible for the candidate 60% of the time, and I am responsible for my team's cohesion etc (as hiring manager). I fear that the candidate would 1.)jump aboard the random train, and 2) push more of the incomp's agenda to our team.

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    It really seems like you already know the answer. – Roman Jan 24 at 15:03
  • I'm not sure if I should follow my gut. I take pride in taking PC, objective decisions. – anonuser12999 Jan 24 at 15:03
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    Your sole responsibilities to the organization as a manager are A) results and B) retention. Will hiring this candidate have a detrimental direct or indirect effect on either one of those two? – Roman Jan 24 at 15:07
  • I cannot be sure. I normally say no if I have doubts, and I do have equal or better candidates in the pool where I would not have to worry about it. – anonuser12999 Jan 24 at 15:10
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First, try a thought exercise. Assume for the moment that the friend in question is incompetent, and go from there. It's pretty clear that his position in your hiring funnel has nothing to do with his ability or lack thereof.

So, the manager is incompetent, and, further, doesn't seem to care about his own competence. He uses political positioning to acquire and hold his position as a leech-like existence, and now he's using those same tools to provide similar protected, useless slots to his friends. Assume worst-case, again, for the moment. If this manager decides that he wants to make it as unpleasant as possible for you to do anything other than hire one of his friends, how bad can he make it? Does he really have any teeth on this one? Are you willing to accept a useless and unpleasant lump on your team just to placate him?

My guess, based on what you've written is that his ability to make his displeasure known is somewhat limited, and that you are not willing to hire useless wastes of space just in order to placate the man. That's a useful thing to know. Assuming it's true, that means that if the guy who comes in is incompetent, you know you want to ditch him.

Now, let's look at the exact opposite side. Suppose the terrible manager is a paper tiger. He's ditching candidates right and left because he wants to keep the slot open for his friend, but once the friend has been ditched, he'll accept someone else (possibly after trying this game a couple more times, and a few grumbles). Further, suppose that the friend is generally reasonably competent at the job, but, being a friend, acts as the manager's representative in your shop. How terrible would that be? To what degree can you make sure that the new guy tanks all of the senseless requests and time-wasting? If you have one member of your team who's actively pro-leech (possibly escalating for him, etc) how much of a problem is that?

My guess is that the damage that the new guy could do as "useful, competent, but friend of the leech" is relatively limited, but I don't know. The answer to that question will tell you whether or not you want to hire him if he is qualified.

The final question is how hard it would be to get rid of him if you guess wrong. If you decide that the kid's useless and needs to go, but the leech-manager values him and is willing to fight to keep him, how hard would it be for you to get rid of him once he's in place? I have no idea what the answer is on this one, but it is pertinent.

Still, assuming that you aren't willing to hire someone worthless in order to placate the manager, and that hiring someone otherwise effective would be useful even though he is friends of the manager, and you can get rid of him afterwards if it turns out you were wrong, then I'd suggest you try to give him something resembling a fair shake. Let yourself be a bit biased. (The way he got into your queue should be a black mark against him, as it suggests that he's probably political, and casts some doubt on his skills.) Don't discard him out of hand for it, though. Realize that the position you're hiring him for involves a fair chunk of "leech-wrangler" (ie, causing the overall annoyance-to-the-shop from that manager to go down rather than up) and interview accordingly.

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    That's a very good answer. The best case scenario is that the friend is competent, the leech knows it and wants to hire him so his data-related work can improve. Although to that end any comptent candidate would work... – busman Jan 24 at 16:29
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He referred an analyst which we put in the hiring funnel. He since rejected all candidates we sent him.

Many companies have a policy that if you are referring people for a position you should not also be involved in making the decision of who is being hired. This prevents people from forcing a candidate through who would earn them a referral bonus (I don't know if that applies here) and makes nepotism more difficult. Depending on the local laws, if this person is rejecting candidates in an effort to get a friend hired, he could be opening the possibility for legal action against your common employer as nepotism is generally frowned on.

It may be worth it to suggest that your company enact these kinds of policies at some point. It is generally going to be hard for anyone to make an objective decision between a close friend and someone else they are interviewing, and he should recuse himself from the process.

What is the right thing to do in this situation? Am I wrong in my fears? Should I consider the candidate at all?

I would evaluate the candidate sincerely. Being friends with someone doesn't mean you have the same work ethic. Since the candidate has mentioned a close friendship with this other employee, you could ask some questions like: "how would you manage a professional disagreement with your close friend?" or other similar questions to attempt to gauge how the relationship would influence their work. I would certainly not hire someone who demonstrates that he'd be a yes man to anyone in the office, much less an employee that is causing difficulties. In other words, I would look sincerely but not blindly.

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You should evaluate the friend based on his own merits, same as you would do for any other applicant. If he meets the hiring bar, then hire him, if he doesn't, then don't. If the other manager complains, then let him complain. Presumably, you have an objectively sound hiring bar, where hiring decisions are made on the basis of what the applicant can do rather than who they are. The conversation with your manager (after they receive a complaint from this other manager about how you "blackballed" his friend) is likely to go something like this:

Your manager: "So, Joe, I hear you interviewed Kevin's buddy the other day and he was rejected. Can I ask for more information?"

You: "Sure. pulls out interview reports If you look here, you'll see that Kevin's friend was unable to explain the finer details of Victorian-era basket weaving. He only knew the history of basket-weaving up until the beginning of the 20th century, and we really need someone who knows the history of basket-weaving up until the Rennaissance".

Manager: "Fair enough, we do need someone who knows a lot more about basket-weaving than Kevin's buddy. I see that this wasn't a slight against Kevin, but his buddy really wasn't what we were looking for. Thanks, Joe."

And that will be the end of the discussion.

Of course, this is not to say you should blackball the friend. If he is what you are looking for, then you should hire him. But don't be afraid to treat him just like any other candidate without special treatment because of his connections.

As a side question, I'd be interested to know why you are asking your candidates about their hobbies at all and what relevance this has to your workplace.

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