should I hire a qualified candidate who comes with a ton of baggage? — Ask a Manager

A reader asks:

My team recently created a new position. A colleague from another department got wind of this and asked when I planned to advertise the vacancy. I’m in no hurry to fill the position, so I said “hopefully by the end of the year.” He let me know that his wife is very qualified for the position and that I should consider her. I haven’t even written the job description yet, so it’s impossible for him to know whether or not his wife is qualified for it. A few days later, he asked if I’d advertised the position yet and said to keep him posted because he wants to make sure his wife gets in. A day or so after that, he handed me her resume and assured me again that she’d be the right person for the job (remember the job doesn’t even exist yet).

Here is where I should tell you that this particular colleague has been an unkind, uncooperative, disrespectful, manipulative pain in my backside the entire time we’ve worked together. I would never accept any professional advice from him, least of all give him input on my hiring decisions. If I hired his wife, I would not put it past him to utilize their relationship as leverage in unprofessional ways.

The wife emailed me a day or so later and informed me that she already has a job, but is considering changing fields and asked for an appointment so that I could tell her more about the [non-existent] job to help her “determine if it would be a good fit” for her. I was half-amused, half-incredulous and had 30 minutes to spare, so I accepted the appointment. The entire interaction was underwhelming. She’d ask vague questions like “so, what does your department do?” and expect me to expound for her. She didn’t dress professionally, obviously hadn’t browsed the website before coming in, etc.

I did eventually post the position, the wife applied, and it turns out she is actually an intriguing candidate on paper and has perhaps the most relevant experience of all the applicants. I haven’t begun interviewing yet, but my initial instinct is not to touch her with a 10-foot pole (because of the husband) and that instinct is reinforced by the “informational interview” we already had.

On the one hand, perhaps it isn’t fair to allow my opinion of the husband to impact the wife’s candidacy. But on the other hand, she involved her husband in her candidacy from the beginning, so I don’t think she can reasonably expect her candidacy to be evaluated in a vacuum. Hiring her could turn out fine. But it could also be a complete disaster, and I’m very concerned about the latter coming true (and have good reason to believe it could). Where do you stand on this?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

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