There is an interview scheduled, and HR has revealed my name as the interviewer to the person (one of my colleagues) who referred this candidate. Now the colleague is continuously insisting I be lenient.

How should I handle this if the candidate doesn't perform well in the interview?

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    @JitendraKumar.Balla It seems that HR was the one that leaked who was conducting the interview. May 14, 2019 at 9:28
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    I think it's important to bring up that seriously asking to "take it easy" in the process of an interview disqualifies it from being "professional", becoming a matter of interpersonal conflict since professionally it is an obviously absurd request that could taint your reputation.
    – lucasgcb
    May 14, 2019 at 11:19
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    @QuaestorLucem please consider posting this as an answer, after some editing May 14, 2019 at 15:00
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    @Acccumulation I tried making it a little better - from the standpoint of my understanding. May 14, 2019 at 16:11
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    Please state your location ('do the needful' pretty much tells us it's India). Some cultures have more nepotism than others. It also depends on how powerful the person who recommend them is (colleague, rather than MD or Director)
    – smci
    May 16, 2019 at 2:27

6 Answers 6


Say no to Nepotism or Cronyism!

The person you will interview - whatever the outcome is, you're responsible for your opinion. Make it worthy.

Given that this is a normal recruitment process, do not treat the candidate based on any other factor other than the capability and eligibility for the applied role / position. Treat them as you'd have treated any other candidate if they'd not have the reference.

How should I handle this if the candidate didn't perform well in the interview?

Your judgement is yours - if you feel they are not a good fit, you're entitled to reject them.

Regarding the part on how to respond to your colleague when they approach you (again):

  • Before the interview or till results are published

    Thanks, I'll do / I did the needful.

    You're indicating that you'll do / you've done the right thing.

  • When result is published / communicated officially

    • If it's a positive outcome - mention that the candidate passed the interview with their own capabilities.

    • If it's a negative outcome - mention that that was the result of the interview which was conducted, and nothing personal. Any further discussion on this, should happen in presence of HR.

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    I strongly support this, I have given my review honestly but neither I have rejected her nor I pushed for the next level. I kept that decision on HR. I told her my opinion that she should be rejected.
    – smali
    May 14, 2019 at 13:54
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    I would be cautious agreeing to do anything in paper/email, even if it's ambiguous what you agreed to do. Cases like this can actually be incidents of bribery, giving a clients son a cushy job etc. and if it comes under inspection and there's an email from you saying "I did the needful" you could be liable.
    – Cain
    May 14, 2019 at 16:04
  • @Cain I highly doubt someone will be "continuously insisting me to do the needful." over any sort of written communication themselves, but good point nevertheless. May 14, 2019 at 16:12
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    @Maurycy Cronyism. (I looked for a question on English.SE, but there the distinction appears to be a given.) May 15, 2019 at 6:05
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    @Maurycy and Andrew - Thanks for the suggestion. Though I feel the reach or coverage of the particular word is a bit limited, but I'll add that to the answer anyways. May 15, 2019 at 6:08

I'm surprised that so little attention has been paid to Quaestor Lucem's suggestion in comments on the question:

Recuse yourself. Ask your management to find somebody else to interview this candidate. You have a conflict of interest: Given your feelings, it's likely that you will be too hard on him, which is unfair to the candidate. If you hire the guy, some people will think you may have gone easy on him. If you reject him, some people will think you were too hard on him. I would prefer not to have those questions asked about my character, and the interpersonal drama is no good for anybody.

Human interactions are not mathematics. It is impossible to guarantee objectivity when you have an interest in the outcome. Of course, you always have an interest in hiring the best candidate for the job, but that interest doesn't conflict with your responsibilities as an interviewer. This one does.

At this point, if you feel this strongly about it, you can't really be fair. "Try really hard to be objective" doesn't work, because you can't be objective, and everybody knows it. When people play the "how dare you suggest I'm subject to human weakness?!" card, they are choosing to be unethical. That's just make-believe. When you have a conflict of interest, you step away from the job if at all possible, because 1) you cannot perform the task ethically, and 2) for the sake of the integrity of the process, people must be seen to behave ethically. It must be the norm for people to behave ethically. And I mean genuinely ethically, not make-believe "trust me, I'll try to objective, wink wink" "ethically".

Of course, if you live in a culture where favoritism is the norm, you're dealing with a different definition of "ethics". But from what you say, it seems to me that this solution is a good fit for the dictates of your personal conscience.

SouravGhosh brings up a good point: You can create a lot of other trouble by accusing the colleague of applying pressure, and in this case it's not absolutely clear that the colleague intends to apply pressure. If you're going to remove yourself from the interview process, you have to find a non-destructive way to do that. I don't have a very good answer to that part of the question, but I might tell my manager that I don't want to be in the position of potentially having to disappoint my colleague's hopes of her friend getting hired. To me, that doesn't suggest that the colleague is applying any pressure. I wonder if others would see it the same way.

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    Yes, you need to recuse yourself. Whatever happens from either perspective you stand the chance of getting into serious trouble. You honestly can't trust your own judgement at this point (as neither could I in this situation).
    – Dannie
    May 14, 2019 at 15:05
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    While I morally support this approach, one practical question: if asked why you'd want to step down as interviewr - what'd be the answer? Shall I fake it and say generic unavailability? Unlikely, since I might have already agreed to make time for the interview. Shall I say the truth? The problem is - that the co-worker is trying to influence me is my assumption / impression - they never asked anything directly. It can just be as simple as s/he has a habit of repeating something multiple times - how to be sure? Heck, if confronted, they can simply deny it - and it will become war of words. May 14, 2019 at 16:18
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    @SouravGhosh That's a very good question. It would have to be pretty extreme before I'd accuse the colleague of applying pressure. I might just say that I'm concerned about potentially damaging my relationship with the colleague. If you say "she's really excited about him getting the job" doesn't (to my mind) say that she's putting inappropriate pressure on anybody; there's nothing wrong with wanting your friends to succeed. May 14, 2019 at 16:34
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    In a big company it'd be very normal to decline to interview someone because they're a relative of your friend at work and it would bias your opinion and relationship with them. Interviewing them is a no-win scenario as @EdPlunkett explains.
    – Tom
    May 16, 2019 at 12:52

The same as any candidate

It is difficult rejecting any candidate, I always attempt to do so gently - there is no need to be harsh, if not for their sake then because the world is becoming an increasingly smaller place. Treat this candidate as you would any other and, if they aren't successful and the family member takes that out on you then they're the one acting unprofessionally.

For now just treat them as any other candidate, any deviations from professionalism will be on the side of your colleague, not you.


Tell the colleague as strongly as possible that this candidate will be interviewed and hired or not hired, exactly as any other candidate would. And that’s what you do in the interview.

There are two reasons for this: The first reason is that you don’t want to be responsible for hiring someone who is incompetent. The second is that if you hire the person, you can tell them with a good conscience that they were hired on their own merit, and not because someone got them the job even though they were incompetent. That will make that person feel better, but it will also make clear that you expect competent work from them.

Should the person not be hired, and then your colleague complains to you, then you should tell HR.

Exceptions: If the company owner asks you, then maybe you have to hire the person anyway. But I say “company owner”, that is the person who pays the salary out of their own pocket. Not your manager, boss, CEO, only the owner. Or if the colleague tells you that if there are any shortcomings with the candidate, your colleague will fix that outside company time, then you can take that into account.

  • I disagree with the exception. The company owner has delegated the responsibility for running the company to the CEO, who may delegate it further. Yo don't bypass that as an employee. It's one way to get fired very quickly.
    – MSalters
    May 16, 2019 at 10:15

While I understand Ed Plunkett's position (especially about the near impossible task of remaining objective once you've been approached in the way you describe), that may not be a feasible option, especially if you are the subject-matter expert and need to evaluate the applicant's technical skills and acumen. Ali786's comment gives a middle approach between complete recusal and attempting to maintain objectivity - that is, if this is a technical position, inform HR that you will conduct the technical aspect of the interview only, providing feedback on the applicant's technical abilities; all other aspects inherent with an interview should be addressed by HR independently.

Additionally, in order to test the applicant skills, compiling (and documenting the applicant's responses) a series of tasks, necessary knowledge, and problem solving questions that are directly pertinent to the position would be an objective way to determine the applicant's suitability for the position; ideally, if you had sufficient time, you could socialize your interview questions with your co-worker's to ensure that whatever the outcome, they thought the process was fair and captured the necessary skills/knowledge for the job.

If this were a non-technical position and your input would be as meaningful as anyone else's, I think recusal would provide the least amount of headaches between you and your co-workers.


Same situation I was in!

Remember: It's equally important to handle your own situation in the office with your colleague as the interview itself because sometimes it turns ugly in the long run.

  1. Give a rating to each candidate you interviewed, better to add notes on each criterion.
  2. Compare that rating each time after the interview for selection.

Before Interview: Wear a smile and keep saying, Definitely will look forward if the candidate qualifies, if you are referring, must be good as you know him/her Put this pressure back to his/her reference than on yourself and focus more on selection criteria.

Support your acceptance and rejection with numbers and facts. Show your ability/ inability by numbers and transparent facts supported by criterion to take the candidate.

Don't be lenient but rather be honest in the interview, just like any other interview.

After Interview: If the result is not positive, be respectful and provide reasons to your colleague with a sad tone and your inability to select.

Sometimes, in office, it's better to be considerate to others feelings while communication even though you know what they are asking from you is not ethical.

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