You’re an HR Manager who has finally found a job applicant that is qualified for the role you would like to fill. The applicant passed their interviews with flying colors, and now you’re ready to move on to the next step: call their past companies to get more information about their previous job performance.

As you skim the past companies listed on their resume, you’re pleased to see a company listed where one of your friends or colleagues works. So instead of calling the HR department to gather intel on the applicant, you decide to side-step the recommended system and call your friend for the reference instead.

If you’re an HR Manager who has ever found yourself in this situation, you’re not alone…

In the past 28 years that I’ve spent working as a recruiter, I’ve seen this scenario play out countless times. Unfortunately, the results are often the same: a highly-qualified applicant gets passed up for a job that could have been the right fit because the HR Manager failed to follow the proper system.

Keep in mind, there is a reason why the protocol for gaining intel on past work performance is to call the HR Department. They have a proven and reliable system in place to relay information about past employees. When you call an applicant’s previous managers or co-workers directly instead of calling HR, you leave the job applicant’s fate in the hands of team members who aren’t qualified to properly assess an applicant’s job performance.

Sadly, in many cases, old team members or managers might intentionally relay negative information about an applicant because of old disputes or even jealousy that may have arose because of your everyday office politics. Not only does this hurt the job applicant, it also hurts your company since you could be missing out on hiring the candidate who might have been an invaluable asset to your team. And this couldn’t be more true for “niche” positions that are typically very hard to fill.

Remember, references must be factual and objective. And the only people suitable to provide you with both is HR. So the next time you find yourself in a similar situation, I hope you will resist the temptation to bypass HR and follow the proper system.

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