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What are they trying to find out when they ask this?

  • Welcome to the site Michael. I see that you've posted two questions about a similar topic. I guess they have a different focus and different answers though so I suppose that should be fine. – Lilienthal Apr 9 '16 at 22:24
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    They are tying to find out if you know anyone that works for the company. – paparazzo Apr 10 '16 at 8:08
  • Though then you'd think they'd just ask, "Did someone refer you to us"... I would assume they have a process for referring people (e.g. the referrer is the one to hand up the CV or something) rather than just trying to sneakily get it out of the referee... – colmde Apr 12 '16 at 13:34
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Quite simply, what they're trying to find out is whether you know anyone who works for the company.

But I suspect you're more interested in why they would want to know this.

  • Depending upon your relationship with someone who already works for the company, company rules may prohibit you from working in the same department/group.
  • They may want to ask that person questions about you and how you are as an employee/colleague. Think of it as an internal reference check.
  • If that person referred you to the company/position, they may be eligible for a referral bonus.
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    All good points except the latter in my experience. If they can avoid paying out a referral bonus because the candidate supposedly made contact on his own they will. Of course that's not the smart thing for the company to do. – Lilienthal Apr 9 '16 at 22:21
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    Also, one more reason could be that they noticed that you had the same experience on your resume as someone else who works for them now, and they may be wondering if you know that person or not, or worked with that person or not. – Stephan Branczyk Apr 9 '16 at 23:25
  • @Lilienthal Look at it from the opposite perspective. Maybe an employee already claimed they referred the candidate to the job, and the company wants to verify that this is true before giving the payout. – David K Apr 11 '16 at 16:12
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    @Lilienthal 1. While not likely to happen, it seems like something that's very easy to verify, so some companies may require it. 2. If the system is easily gamable for a small monetary benefit, you better bet someone has been stupid enough to try it. – David K Apr 11 '16 at 18:12
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    @DavidK Fair point and one that I often fail to consider. I assume that the interviewer would typically say "So how do you know X?" instead of a vague "Do you know someone here?" though. After all, the interviewer should know that's true if the referral is genuine, which it usually will be. – Lilienthal Apr 11 '16 at 18:19
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Pretty much what was asked. I don't think there's any manipulation or secret mind game with this one, but the company may have an incentive program for employees who bring on other employees that stay for a period of time.

An example: a few years ago, I had a brief stint at a market research firm. If I told a friend about it, the friend was hired, and the friend stayed on for 3 months, I'd get a bonus.

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Another reason not touched on by the other answers but certainly valid is:

  • to understand more about why they want to join

If they have some knowledge of the company culture and working practices and want to join then there is a better chance of them fitting in than a random stranger. Team fit and culture fit are very important concepts when hiring, as they increase retention considerably, and also tend to add positively to team morale.

Both of those provide measurable cost savings for most companies I have worked with, and are core team metrics where I currently am at a large multinational financial organisation.

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Just to be careful: It is quite possible that you know someone working for the company (if you have been around in your industry for a while), without knowing where they work. So in order not to be suspected to be a liar, if you don't know of anyone working there I'd say "it's of course possible that someone who I know has joined your company, but I don't know about anyone" which is useful if they introduce you to a coworker that you haven't seen in ten years.

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    I am hard-pressed to imagine anyone that would consider a candidate a liar if they said that they didn't know anyone that worked for the company only to discover later that a colleague they hadn't thought about in a decade happened to work there. The phrasing you suggest is odd enough that I would be concerned that the candidate was trying to create some plausible deniability to avoid answering the question truthfully. – Justin Cave Apr 11 '16 at 15:58
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    @JustinCave - HR people are a different breed. They may, indeed, see this as a "lie." The wording is odd, though. My answer would be, "Not that I'm aware of." – Wesley Long Apr 11 '16 at 18:46
  • This is absurdly paranoid. – Andrew Medico Apr 12 '16 at 23:26

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