50,000 Reasons To Present

Hi Danny,

When should a decision to present a candidate turn on second-hand information?

I was arranging a candidate interview for my favorite client. Knowing that the candidate is as strong-willed as the woman he would be working alongside, I suggested that my client get her input before his sit-down with the candidate. The word came back that “he’s arrogant and a sexual harassment case waiting to happen.” Alrighty then. I give the candidate a plausible excuse for not going forward and I back away.

Today I get a call from an employer whose position is a great match for this candidate. “Arrogant” is a) in the eye of the beholder, and b) not such a bad thing for this particular employer. “Sexual harassment case waiting to happen” is something else. I have met the candidate briefly, and never in any situation that would let me judge this fairly. It’s second-hand, though from someone I know and respect (and placed in her current position).

Would you present the candidate? (Did I mention that the fee would be $50,000+?)

Danny's response,

Classic Woody Allen joke: An exec from a Vodka company calls him and asks him to do a commercial for their beverage. Allen is outraged, says he is an artist and doesn’t pander. He doesn’t drink vodka, and if he did, he wouldn’t drink their vodka. The exec says, “That’s too bad because it pays one million dollars.” and Woody says, “Hold on, let me put Mr. Allen on the phone.”

But let’s put money aside. (in fact, slide it over to my side, for safety’s sake) I would present your candidate, but not because I am greedy and there appears to be no end to my need for material solutions to emotional problems. But because of the line, “he is a sexual harassment case waiting to happen.”

To be clear, I don’t tolerate Sexual Harassment. Not in my firm, and not in my life. One need only read about Senator Gillebrand’s experience in the Senate to know how pervasive and insidious a problem it remains in American society. I’m sorry to say that in the 20 years we have been placing software sales people, often women between the ages of 25-50, often travelling with a colleague overnight to demo products or meet an IT team, we often run into the problem. It nearly always involves alcohol, and it nearly always reminds me of what my first and only boss, John Hobson told me, “Nothing good happens after midnight.” I like to think I have a track record of championing that cause. But I have had to try to find a way to draw the line, which so often gets blurry in a “he said, she said” way.

So here is where I draw it. Was there any sexual harassment claim filed? Was there a settlement or a decision? Can it be documented? Failing these, is there a preponderance of evidence? (Have I heard the same essential story from multiple sources? Is it therefore clear I am putting people in harm’s way?)

If these things exist, I won’t promote or present the candidate. If they don’t, and I hear one rogue (literally, calling him a rogue) comment, I withhold judgment and present the candidate, and stay hypersensitive to any feedback in the debriefing process that would lead me to believe there should be a concern. I don’t feel it is right to eliminate someone from consideration because, potentially, 1) a super shy or conservative person heard a comment that someone else would brush off 2) the information was second hand and diluted 3) someone, perhaps the victim of a jilted relationship, is out to get the guy. I don’t know for sure. So I try to verify in a reasonable way. Google and do a background check. Ask about any sexual harassment claims in the reference checking. And then make a decision that allows you to sleep at night. (Do you know what kind of thread count you could afford in your bedding with $50k?! Just saying.)

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We have hundreds of great questions and answer blogs from Danny and the recruiters he has trained. Look for emails highlighting these questions.