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I know this is a frequently asked question, but I recently gave an interview, and a few days later I had a very brief call with HR. They asked me, "Do you have any relatives working with us?" and I replied, saying, "No, I do not have any relatives working with the firm." That was the last conversation I had with the firm, and I haven't received any further updates.

My question here is, have I answered the question wrongly? Was HR looking for nepotism, or was HR merely looking to find someone to vouch for me?

Here's some additional info: I did have a relative working there, and our names were quite similar, like Stephan said. But my relative left the firm last year. I guess that's what raised the red flag 🚩.

Update: After another conversation with the HR, I can conclude that the issue of having similar names raising the red flag 🚩 is rather unlikely.

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    You say "no" for example and then find you have a 15th cousin working there... Have you lied or is that not what they meant...
    – Solar Mike
    Feb 9 at 8:00
  • @SolarMike I have updated my question
    – Luke
    Feb 9 at 9:09
  • Did you know your relative was working for that company before the interview? Did your relative leave the company or just a specific department? How close are you with that relative? maybe he/she has still friends or get regularly in touch with people at the old company ... if you really are interested in the job, it is time to have a chat with your relative.
    – EarlGrey
    Feb 9 at 16:32
  • @EarlGrey Yes I did know my relative was working, My relative has left the firm not a department
    – Luke
    Feb 9 at 18:48
  • How long has it actually been since you heard from them? Is it possible that it was a routine question that someone had forgotten to ask, and they're otherwise still processing your application/interviewing all people before making a decision/etc.? Feb 9 at 19:50
43

In the US, you usually get priority if you have a relative working in the company. At the very minimum, you get a courtesy interview even if the resume doesn't fit the requirements and even if they don't plan to hire you.

With that said, there are also other rules to consider. Many companies have rules against two relatives (or lovers) working under each other, or working in the same department, especially in accounting or procurement or anywhere where there is the potential for fraud.

My guess is. Someone in the company has the same last name as you and they just wanted to make sure you two were not related.

And no, most likely they were not looking for someone to vouch for you. If they had been looking for someone to vouch for you, their question would have been: "Do you know anyone who works for our company?" or "Do you have any references you can provide from past jobs or from school?

People just can't be trusted when it comes to their own relatives. You interview the relative out of courtesy, but you usually don't trust any positive thing a family member says about another family member unless that first family member is your boss, your CEO, or some very important person to your company.

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    I think you've definitely made a point with Someone in the company has the same last name as you and they just wanted to make sure you two were not related.
    – Luke
    Feb 9 at 7:25
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    Why would it be in the interest of the company to prefer interviewing relatives of employees? Logically, I can only see why the opposite would be the case.
    – Peter
    Feb 9 at 8:46
  • 3
    @Luke, Again, I don't think you can call that a "red flag", but the next time you apply somewhere, see if you know anyone who's working there, whether it's a relative or a friend. I believe there is a LinkedIn Chrome/Firefox extension for that that will tell you automatically if you have someone in your network who is working at the company you're browsing the website of. And yes, if you have a relative you know well who's a former employee, you should give that person a call, maybe he still had friends working there and he could have introduced you. Feb 9 at 9:21
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    @Luke, I used to work in HR scanning resumes. If a resume came in cold, I would not check that little checkbox giving it priority. So the answer to your question would be "no", at least based on my very limited experience at this one government agency in the United States when I was an intern. But if you spoke to your relative and your relative gave a call to a friend of his that still works there, then that friend of his can act as your introduction to the company. And whether that friend forwards your resume to HR, or you just mention their name on the application, then we made sure we... Feb 9 at 9:42
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    ...didn't lose your resume or filter your resume out because we were worried that the person in question would ask some follow-up questions and would complain if we had ditched your resume too early in the process. Feb 9 at 9:44
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My question here is have I answered the question wrongly?

How can you be wrong while stating the fact? You answered truthfully, and that's it.

If the company has a policy related to the answer (ex: not allowing relatives to work in same hierarchy / department, or [for some weird reason] only allowing relatives of existing employees to work), they'll proceed accordingly, there's very little you can do about that. However, given that you don't have any relative in their payroll and you stated the fact, there's nothing to be worried about. Let them handle this.

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  • By wrong I meant I didn't give the answer they were expecting.
    – Luke
    Feb 9 at 7:26
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    @Luke And what do you think would have happened if you said yes, and then they ask you who said relative is? It doesn't really matter why they asked the question or what they were looking for. They asked a question to which there is only one viable answer, which is the truth. You gave it to them and there's nothing more you can do.
    – Kaz
    Feb 9 at 7:26
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    @Luke If they wanted to ask that question, they could have.
    – Kaz
    Feb 9 at 7:28
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    @Luke That's the best thing you can do! Feb 9 at 7:30
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    @DanielHatton I'm pretty sure the question was Do you have any relatives working with us?
    – Luke
    Feb 9 at 18:51
3

My question here is have I answered the question wrongly?

I don't think it's possible to answer the question wrongly -- either you do have relatives working with the firm, or you don't, and lying would be eventually found out.

There's no way to know why they are asking the question, unless you ask them for the reason directly. There could be a number of different reasons why they haven't responded since then, but I doubt it has anything to do with your answer to that question.

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    There's also the possibility of simply being wrong. You know your uncle Bob works in a warehouse somewhere, but not necessarily which company.
    – pipe
    Feb 9 at 18:29
  • @pipe: Exactly. I sure don't know (or care) what most of my relatives do. And what counts as a relative? Cousins, inlaws, fouth cousins twice removed? Ultimately, we're all related, even if it's back in the Stone Age. So unless you know of some specific, the only honest answer is "Not that I know of".
    – jamesqf
    Feb 9 at 23:45
3

In the UK, I worked for a very large employer (10K employees) located at a single site. They kind of had a policy not to employ too many people from the same household for the simple reason that if the company failed (and they very nearly did), having those households go from fully employed to fully unemployed could be financially devastating, especially considering that the company indirectly also supported a large part of the surrounding economy via sub-contracting etc.

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    This is a great insight about the possible reason for the question but not really an answer to the question itself.
    – espindolaa
    Feb 9 at 18:16
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    @espindolaa it isn't specifically spelled out but the implication is "If this is why that company is asking the question then you did nothing wrong answering as you did - it won't hurt your chances. Not a huge leap but yes - the answer doesn't spell it out for you. Feb 9 at 22:12
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I see a lot of questions like yours, both here and on websites like Ask The Manager, where people think there's one weird trick to answering questions like this.

There isn't - or if there is one, it's to answer the question truthfully to the best of your knowledge. The vast majority of sane/functional workplaces ask questions because they want to know the answer. They're not expecting 10% of the people being asked this question to somehow recognise it as a secret cheat code for bypassing the recruitment process and getting a job immediately if only they answer in the form of haiku carved on the side of a fish. They just want a simple answer to a simple question.

In any sane/functional workplace this will be all that's necessary. With regards to your specific question, usually it's considered bad practice to be line-managed by a family member for example.

The reason they haven't replied straight away is because they will have a huge workload. While getting a new job is important to you, it is one of many things that are important to the HR department. Even in a dedicated recruitment division or dealing with the line manager for a position, they will have many other things to attend to. Your answer to the question will be appended to your application and you'll hear from them (or not these days sigh) in due course.

1

In larger Asian companies, it's a bit of both. If a relative works there, they can vouch for you, but it's often policy to not put the two of you in the same department because it could lead to (accusations of) nepotism.

It sounds likely that they rejected you despite your answer, and the question was just there as a form of, "Please disclose this information before we proceed with your application."

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  • How does it seem like a rejection?
    – Luke
    Feb 10 at 9:11
  • @Luke I assumed that "That was the last conversation..." meant it was a rejection. It's quite common to get rejected without notice in some cultures.
    – Muz
    Feb 11 at 2:01
-2

I believe it's best to do some research on the firm's corporate policy, you don’t want to make the mistake of not being aware of these kinds of pertinent details.

It also maybe a good idea to mention you're acquainted with some of the firm's former employees.

As for the delay, prior to the employment offer, the immediate supervisor must complete a signed statement certifying the candidate is not a relative. Failure to submit the signed statement to the vice president of human resources (HR) will result in the delay of the job offer until the statement is submitted.

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    There is no reason to expect that you will be able to find the corporate policy on this, and know that it is up-to-date or still valid. Hiring staff won't expect you to be aware of those kinds of details. The immediate supervisor is unlikely to be in a position to certify anything about family relationships. Feb 10 at 16:01
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    @SamLiddicott: Most likely the signed statement this answer mentions whether the prospective employee is the supervisor's own relative, and of course the supervisor can certify that.
    – Ben Voigt
    Feb 10 at 20:12

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