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Reid Hoffman on the relationship between employers and employees (vox.com)
231 points by jrs235 on May 22, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 153 comments



Loyalty is such a ridiculous thing for most companies to expect. It needs to be earned, and it's not even that complicated. Here's how you get loyal employees:

1. After some probation period, fire only as a last resort or for really terrible behaviour. Have a plan to correct behavior in all other cases.

2. No layoffs unless the firm's very existence is threatened. It's a tough year? Too bad, that's part of the risk involved in being the owner.

3. Keep pay up to market/replacement rates. If someone is 20% more valuable with his new knowledge, pay him 20% more. 4. Have good benefits/vacation policies.

5. Make sure there's lots of interesting and challenging work to do. Allow people to switch roles/teams on a regular basis if they're interested.

6. Hire good people.

That's a company I'd be loyal to, and I think a lot of others would be too. Sure, you'd get people who would leave for their own thing, or a dream job, or because their husband/wife got a job 2000 miles away, but I don't think you'd see people jump ship nearly as often.

The other stupid thing is companies trot out how much it costs to hire a new person, but never want to invest in just retaining their employees.


I work somewhere like that - and to be honest 5 isn't that big a deal even if is replaced by a 9 to 5 culture and some interesting things to work on and the rest isn't complete drudgery.

You'll often find places like this away from the big hubs. They're doing "quite nicely, thank you" with no ambition to become #1, IPO or make the owners richer than Croesus. They also tend to have little to no problem recruiting good people in their 30s and 40s into their nice part of the world where there are good schools, affordable homes and comfortable living.

Nowhere is perfect, the grass is always greener etc. You couldn't pay me enough money to move to London from Scotland.


places like this away from the big hubs

Could you please give some examples? Having only worked in mega cities, I am totally unaware of such opportunities.


My wife works at a place like this, although it's a construction company and not software. We just made a decision to move to a really nice part of the world (Vancouver Island) a few years ago. My wife started looking for jobs after she got here, picked one, and basically lucked out.

This company really does treat their employees like family. My wife got a phone call a few months ago that her father was very ill and in hospital (he's now recovered). Her boss immediately bought her a plane ticket so she could go home to visit him.

Last year she had to take a month off for surgery, and the company was really nice about it. They paid part of her salary while she was off to make up for the unemployment benefit (even though they didn't have to), told her to take as long as she needed to recover, sent her flowers at the hospital, etc.

She started off on a fairly low salary, but she's got multiple large pay rises since she started there, and is now earning a decent salary. (Her boss talked to her about salary, and basically asked her what she thought she should be making).

They do expect hard work and commitment. Quite often she will work overtime if it's busy, and they are very quick to fire useless people. However in return for your commitment they do treat their employees very well.


These are companies that in the Valley are referred to as "lifestyle businesses" in a derogatory fashion, as they'll never be "IPO" money. Yet, they have happy customers, happy employees, and generate a profit.


Yeah, I actually run a lifestyle business myself, and have done so for the past 18 years. I make a decent living (albeit much less than I'd earn working for a SV startup or Google), have a virtually stress-fee life, live in paradise, and can set my own work schedule. I don't have any employees at the moment, but when I did employ someone I gave him the same work conditions that I set for myself (i.e. work whenever you want, and take time off whenever you feel like it).

Before I started working on my business full-time I earned about 5x what I make now (and that was over 15 years ago), but I'm much happier now.


The parable of the Mexican fisherman: http://renewablewealth.com/the-parable-of-the-mexican-fisher...

:)


> These are companies that in the Valley are referred to as "lifestyle businesses" in a derogatory fashion, as they'll never be "IPO" money.

What's funny is that small and mid-size businesses that Silicon Valley looks down on can generate IPO money.

Founders, senior management and investors can make vast fortunes when companies go public, but "IPO money" for rank-and-file employees is typically in the six and seven figures, and that's in best case scenarios.

A lot of small businesses generate net profits of six and seven figures annually. My SO's uncle, for instance, makes over a million dollars a year running a services business. So every year, he's banking more than many employees will make in one-off IPO windfalls. There are tons of business owners like him in this country.


Personally, I don't want IPO money and all the headaches that come with it. I'd rather have more time, good people and freedom than money. That's why I was asking for examples of such cities/companies.


I suspect parent is working in Edinburgh, Glasgow or Aberdeen -- maybe not mega-cities, but still quite large hubs.

Anyway his point was, I think: you can be the best developer (or even co-owner) at Small Web Shop Ltd, Countryshire, be paid 1/3rd of what you would get in London, and still have a good life and (occasionally) get interesting work.


there are plenty of places like this in SF


1. After some probation period, fire only as a last resort or for really terrible behaviour. Have a plan to correct behavior in all other cases.

This is a great way to earn loyalty from the person not being fired and at the same time alienate multiple other employees who may have to work with someone who just might be a bad fit or incompetent. I've seen the situation happen too many times where a company's reluctance to let one person go without a long, dragged-out process of formal correctional measures caused several other, much more valuable team members, to leave instead.


On the other hand I've seen quick firings lead to other very valuable team members leaving as well.

Firing somebody who is doing a decent job causes a lot of damage. The first company I worked at fired two devs after implementing new metrics and determining they were 15-20% less productive than the rest of the team.

In reality these two guys were doing a good job; just not quite as good a job as the rest of us. I immediately started looking for a new job and within six months the entire rest of the team left.


Sounds like the boss was a fan of Jack Welch's vitality curve, with his strategy of firing the bottom 10% each year. Which can have repercussions when those guys aren't slackers, just merely average.


> This is a great way to earn loyalty from the person not being fired and a way to alienate multiple other people who may have to work with that person who may just be a bad fit or incompetent.

Improving "behavior" (I would say "fit" -- the problem can often be on the company's end as well as the employees, and if you want to take the family analogy even semi-seriously, the employer needs to be able to be introspective enough to recognize this) needs to be taken just as seriously as "fire only as a last resort" in these cases; and if you don't have a credible plan to improve fit, you are at the last resort.

(Lots of places that give lip service to an ideal like this, especially places that are still afflicted by heavy bureaucracy, take it the wrong way, and it amounts to "never impose negative consequence and just try to sweep any performance problems under the rug as long as possible"; that's at least as bad as "fire at the first sign of trouble, and never try to understand what went wrong and how it could be improved".)


It might simply come down to terminology, but things like "last resort" and, honestly "plan", bring to mind those terrible corporate HR programs that poor performers are put on that take forever to culminate.

It's alright to fire as a "last resort", but make the process to come to that decision a swift and confident one - your other employees are watching.


Sounds like they failed to have a plan to correct said behavior that caused the others to leave.


Sometimes it's just not correctable. Bad hires happen. Not everyone can do well in a given position. The idea of dragging things out until firing is a "last resort" makes it sound like it's a long process and that is a bad thing. It can create a poisonous working environment.


> The idea of dragging things out until firing is a "last resort" makes it sound like it's a long process and that is a bad thing.

"Last resort" does not mean "long process", it means, "only when there is no reasonable expectation of being able to improve fit to an acceptable level".

Whether it takes a while to reasonably determine that or not depends on what the problem that has manifested is and what opportunities there are to alter conditions to address the problem.


Why did the bad hire make it past the probation period? The purpose of that period is to weed out the bad hires.

Internal processes only take as long as you make them. Correct the issue in 2 weeks. Not solved? Let them go. It doesn't have to be some 6 month ordeal of trying to get things worked out. The point is to have a process to deal with these things rather than telling the employee to pack up their shit and get out.


It's not always easy. I was a bad fit for my last gig (FP/OOP culture clash, mostly), but it took 4 months for them (and me!) to see that. It could have been much quicker (a month), but neither my elder colleague nor me had the gut to tell our hierarchy we probably can't work together: I was still on probation, and my colleague approved my being hired.

Besides, if they did let me go after a month, I'd have resented them for not giving me a fair chance.


How did you get hired in spite of that, and how was it such a big problem that it needed a firing?


Well… it was a combination of that, and general downsizing. They would have put me in another team, but they were all shrinking. So they didn't keep me.

How they didn't see it coming… Well, we informally discussed the project, my OOP knowledge etc… But they didn't read my blog, where my biases are quite clear. Come to think of it, my colleague didn't read the coding style rules he asked me to write either. If he had, some issues would have been addressed right away.

I was also told I would work on equal footing with my colleague, participate in technical decisions… He was my elder, and in the project from the very beginning, so he wasn't really my equal. But I failed to treat him like my boss, and it turned out to be such a big problem that the hierarchy made it official 10 weeks after my arrival.

My first commits weren't object oriented, so my colleague deduced I didn't know OOP. I lost all credibility at that point.

Finally, I was too careful. My unwillingness to rush the next feature as fast as possible without any regard for technical debt was interpreted as "doing research". Sorry, I just can't work that way. I was told we would "rewrite the code 50 times over", which would indeed have compensated. In practice we never rewrote anything. The first version always ended up being set in stone. Even code we both agreed was a mistake.

On the bright side, I did adjust over time, and they even said so (to me and my hierarchy). Maybe that's why they kept me for so long. But it wasn't enough to keep me in the middle of a general downsizing.


At my wife's firm, there's an unspoken protocol: short of wrongdoing, even if you're not good at your job you get two bad annual performance reviews, then you're given six months after that to find another job. That was true even when the shit hit the fan during the recession. The firm, unsurprisingly, has very loyal employees.

That said, writing the biggest checks to get the people chasing the biggest bonuses is also a viable, if potentially unstable, business model. So is hiring people that probably couldn't work somewhere better. The key is being honest to yourself about what glue keeps your organization together.


What industry is your wife in?


She's a lawyer.


Let's say you are working for a for-profit company that operates like you describe, and the business hits a rough patch. The owners tell you that the only way to prevent layoffs would be for everyone to agree to a 20% pay cut, and they back it up with hard data.

Knowing you could get paid more elsewhere, would you accept the pay cut to prevent layoffs or would you leave?

I'm not ashamed to say that I would probably leave. Loyalty shouldn't be expected on either side, and that's ok.


This happened to me in my 2nd job, a long time ago. Customer went tits up owing us £150k, we were only a small firm, around 10 employees so would have meant significant layoffs.

So the owner asked if we'd all take 20% or so paycuts, with some of the older/better paid staff and the owner himself taking bigger cuts. As the business was otherwise profitable (being in a pretty niche market) we all agreed. Something like 9months later we all got paid back with interest and a bonus.

Smaller scale, and a bit more recently at a different (also small) place, all the non-management staff offerred to forego the (expensive) christmas party so one of the contractors could get paid back pay they were owed due to problems with a difficult client.

It's obviously very situational, but in both cases it felt like the right thing to do and both places were smallish firms where loyalty and morale etc. at the time, were high.


If the company didn't have operational reserves for that kind of rough patch I'd be pretty worried anyway - but I'd probably consider it, yeah. A lot of that would depend on my situation at the time though - if it meant defaulting on my mortgage, then no, it's not happening. I agree it's perfectly fine to make a choice like that.

I agree, it's not reasonable to expect loyalty in either direction. I think the key for employers is to remove as many reasons for leaving as possible; then who cares if employees stay out of loyalty or out of logic, they're still staying.

edit: typo


I worked for a small company with 20ish employees during the post 2000 tech downturn. There were a number of layoffs and I got a 25% haircut and was happy to remain. It was a struggle for us financially but not a catastrophe. Eventually (3 years on) the job market got better and I got a position at a different company that took my pay beyond what it had been. I have no regrets and no hard feelings. I can envision returning to that company some day in the future as the environment was interesting and challenging.


I worked for a company and saw the writing on the wall that tough times were ahead. Realizing this I left, hoping to give more time to my coworkers before cuts were instituted. A few months after leaving, the company had to cut everyone's salary by 20%. They were kind enough that they went from being expected to work 5 eight hour days down to expected to work 4 eight hour days.


A bonus based compensation system converts payroll from a fixed to a floating cost.


Consider that the employee who makes only vague promises and demands unlimited concessions, seemingly without regard for the owner's interests, is likely a viper a la Aesop [1]. I've made this mistake before.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Farmer_and_the_Viper


1. Very few employees are in a position to demand concessions from their employers at all.

2. My experience is that typically employees are more concerned for their employers' interests than employers are for their employees'.

3. In Aesop's fable, the farmer helps the viper out of the kindness of his heart. I have had some good employers, but not once have I had the impression that they were employing me just to make my life better rather than because they hoped I would do work for them to their benefit.


Sad to see that its voted down so aggressively, because it's true.

Many individuals assume it's their privilege to be employed by you.


> Loyalty is such a ridiculous thing for most companies to expect. It needs to be earned, and it's not even that complicated.

In this day and age, anyone who expects loyalty--from an employer or an employee--is either blinded by nostalgia, hopelessly naive, or a blithering idiot. Loyalty in the workplace died many, many years ago.


That is not true.

I work for a company where firing is kind of a no-go, at least at the the level of engineers. You'd have to provoke it, e.g. by stealing something. Also, if I decide to leave the company, I tell so as early as possible.

It seems you must have had experiences at workplaces where there was no trust.

Disclaimer: I work for a german company.


Yeah, being outside of the US could make a huge difference. For the most part, in the US, you can be laid off/fired for damn near any reason, at any time, with absolutely no warning.

Companies such as your employer are prettymuch unheard of around here.


that sounds like "the big 4" but why are people still not satisfied with working in big and innovative companies like those?


Because the grass is always greener elsewhere.

The reality is that it's difficult to be a happy employee if you're not a happy person. Unfortunately, our society is filled with people who either don't spend enough time working on their own happiness, or who pursue happiness in the wrong ways.

Employers can create great environments for their employees, but an environment is only as happy as the people in it.


> "They know that employers want loyalty," Hoffman says. "They know they want to hear, 'Oh, I plan on working here for the rest of my career.'

When asked about where I wanted to be in my career by my boss (boss' boss actually), I was honest about having my resume out there and looking for other opportunities outside my current company. Now, I've heard from other sources a promotion that was possible in my future has been basically pulled.

Honesty is not a good policy. Keep lying.

Everyone says they want the truth, but if you are told you're not doing meaningful work, the justification for your job is vanity metrics, and the guy with less experience than you who does terrible work makes more money than you, how happy would you be?

If you told management, you're using the position and any promotion as a jumping off area for a newer better job at a different company, how happy would management be?


> When asked about where I wanted to be in my career by my boss (boss' boss actually), I was honest about having my resume out there and looking for other opportunities outside my current company.

I think that's a bad idea for reasons different than the ones you seem to have intuited. If you are asked where you want to be in your career by your employer, they are asking what you want to be doing (with a subtext that they are trying to find out whether and how they can be the employer for which you are doing it.)

If the focus of your answer to that question is that you are shopping around for opportunities outside of the company, you are basically answering that what you want is, above all else, to be somewhere else.

I don't think the lesson that should be learned from this is "keep lying", I think the lesson is "be honest, but -- in business dealings -- focus on the parts of the truth that the person you are dealing with can, at least potentially, act on in a mutually beneficial way". In this case -- if you are asked where you want to be in your career, you tell your boss what you'd like to be doing.


That wasn't the whole of the back and forth.

We discussed opportunities within the company, what's a good fit for me, starting my own business and eventually that I'd been looking at what else is out there. I actually told him he should be looking too.

He did offer me more money, but I have to wait until our next bonus round to get it. So he used that against me too. It was well played.


It comes down to how you present it. If you tell a high level manager that you're shopping around for a better gig, you're basically waving a big flag that says "don't invest in me." You can have a conversation about your career direction without including the part where you've sent your resume out everywhere already.


>you're basically waving a big flag that says "don't invest in me."

If you're shopping around this can mean your employer has already refused to invest in you, no?


The point is not "don't shop around," the point is "don't broadcast to management that you're shopping around."


I understand this is the current and prevalent mindset I just think it's wrong. If you are told or find out someone is looking for another job, and that person is a good and important resource to your organization, why not take every reasonable action to try to retain them? Instead people have his knee-jerk response of, "Oh you're thinking about leaving? Well NOW I'm never going to consider promoting you because you aren't loyal."


>employer has already refused to invest in you, no?

Obviously you are omitting the myriad of cases that an employer would like to invest in you but can't (yet) from your statement. Plenty of things like a lack of funding, individual ability, market timing, etc. prevents them from investing in you.

If I was waiting for the cash flow to move someone from A to B, and was working diligently to do so, to then have them state they are looking elsewhere for the B position, I would clearly re-evaluate my candidate selection as they may be gone by the time I get the opportunity to promote.


Or you could have an honest discussion with them and tell them you're working diligently towards putting them in the B position, and try to figure out whether there's an overlap between the timeframe you can get them there and the timeframe they would be willing to wait for. Just because someone has floated their resume out there doesn't necessarily mean they're looking to leave ASAP.


The flip-side to that argument is that being honest about your intentions keeps you honest about your ability to deliver value. If I say I'm thinking about leaving and the company doesn't struggle to sort out how to make things work, then either we've agreed there isn't a future for me there or I just haven't been delivering enough value.

Pleasant loyalty is a good way to stay employed when you're doing a mediocre job.

So I like being ruthlessly honest about this stuff. I'm much much happier this way than I have been in the past where my relationship with my employer involved more charades around future plans.


> If you told management, you're using the position and any promotion as a jumping off area for a newer better job at a different company, how happy would management be?

Not happy, and why would they? Flip it around, how happy would you be if you knew they were out there shopping around for your replacement? Only keeping you so long as they didn't find someone better?


If they are doing that, that means that I'm not doing my job well enough that they feel it's worth their time to find a replacement. If you tell your employer you're thinking about leaving, it should tell them the same thing, they are doing something wrong that they need to correct.


At best, telling your employer you're thinking about leaving is childish, like folks in relationships who "break up" as a means of communicating their displeasure instead of talking about the actual issues. At worst it means the relationship is actually bad and one or both of you can't communicate well, so it's over.

The only time it's acceptable IMO is when you're thinking about leaving for an actual, offered role that's much different, eg, "I'm thinking of leaving to be CTO of Startup X, what do you think?"; in any event it's probably OK if the reasons are beyond the company's control (you're moving, etc).


That is apples and oranges. He's talking about a tacit understanding, and not necessarily in the context of upward movement. You're talking about explicitly telling management that you are actively looking. They'd have to be idiots to promote you under those circumstances.


>They'd have to be idiots to promote you under those circumstances.

Why would they have to be idiots? Doesn't this just create a crummy atmosphere where promotions only go to people unwilling or unable to leave the organization?


> Why would they have to be idiots?

Because when the employee was asked what they wanted to be doing in their career, their answer amounted to "be working somewhere else".

> Doesn't this just create a crummy atmosphere where promotions only go to people unwilling or unable to leave the organization?

There's a difference between "people who are willing to leave the company if it cannot provide them what they want" and "people whose desires appear to center around leaving the company".


>their answer amounted to "be working somewhere else".

It does not amount to that. In many, many, cases people start looking for jobs wishing they could stay at their current job.


> It does not amount to that.

Assuming no relevant facts were omitted from the description of events, it does, in the context of the question it was offered in response to.

> In many, many, cases people start looking for jobs wishing they could stay at their current job.

Sure, they do. But the answer to the question "Where do you want to be in your career?" in those cases would focus on the things that they wanted to enable themselves to stay in and love the job with their current employer, not the fact that they are looking for outside opportunities (the latter might be mentioned in the context of specific desires and the fact that certain outside opportunities seemed to be the only way to realize them, but even then the looking for outside opportunities would be secondary to the main answer about desired job features, not the main answer to the question.)


Just because you are willing/able to leave a company doesn't mean you advertise it. Hence "explicit" vs "tacit" in my comment. What a person says about being loyal is irrelevant, you can't assume anyone will stay long term (kind of the point). But if they go out of their way to say they're looking, then they don't want to be there and you shouldn't waste the time & resources training them up.


> doesn't mean you advertise it.

OP: "When asked about where I wanted to be in my career [...] I was honest about having my resume out there"

He didn't "advertise" it -- he just gave a honest answer when questioned. If this is "advertising" for you, then your "default" behaviour would be "be economical with the truth", i.e. white lies, i.e. being fundamentally dishonest... which means OP is right.


> He didn't "advertise" it -- he just gave a honest answer when questioned.

"I am actively looking for jobs at other firms" is not an answer to the question of "where do you want to be in your career", except insofar as it can be read to imply an answer of "not here".

So, it was honest, but not really (except indirectly) an answer to the question asked, and quite likely, in any case, not the most productive and relevant honest answer.

If the reason other opportunities were being sought is that those opportunities offered features X, Y, and Z that the employee's current position didn't, an honest but more direct and relevant answer would be "I'd like to be doing more of things like X, Y, and Z". That would directly answer the question, and provide something positively actionable by the employer, and be no less honest than "I've got my resume out and am actively looking at outside opportunities".

There's two possibilities (based on the scenario as described): either the employee was fed up with the company and really wanted out, and then the answer given was not only honest but reasonably relevant (if somewhat, perhaps diplomatically, indirect), or the employee had particular things they wanted in their career that they weren't currently getting, and failed to give the most relevant perfectly honest answer to the question asked, and instead gave an incomplete, tangentially relevant non-answer which implied an unfortunate and inaccurate answer to the question actually asked.


No they go to the people who threaten to leave as a means of retaining them. That's an even worse environment to work in.


You should be open about your desires and aspirations and they can figure out how to make it work in the company (or not)... but if you say you're already looking elsewhere, you can't really blame them for thinking that whatever chance they had to keep you around, is now lost.


As others have said, it's basically substituting a big lie for a little lie. You basically told your boss that you're looking to leave in the immediate future. What Reid is talking about is more of a "some time in the possible future I'm looking to expand beyond what I'm currently doing here". When it's framed that way, the current company can keep that in mind and include you if something comes their way that matches what you wanted to move on to next.

Basically, when in doubt, be vague.


Promotions for loyalty are poisonous to the company. Merit / track record is the only way to go.


To an extent. As soon as you consider externals for a role though the merit/track record approach falls apart because of the information disparity.

Its usually better to hire the internal person who you know can do a good job, than to hire an external who looks twice as impressive on paper. Yet we often do the opposite.


This is why unions and their seniority based system never caught on in tech.


Your parent did not describe promotions-as-reward-for-loyalty.

Merit/track-record is a key metric, but not the only requirement. Interpersonal skills, future plans (loyalty, career track, etc), attitude, potential...


THIS!

Tenure isn't worth zero, but it's not a "guarantee for greater responsibility and compensation".


When I interview candidates I always bring up his book and ask: "If all this goes well and you come work for us, what's next for you after that? Where do you want to be positioned to go after you move on from here?"

It's a weird question. But it's how I know whether or not I can deliver value to that potential employee. At big companies, salary and benefits is usually the main "value" that they provide. So, in essence, they provide the higher comp package necessary to make up for the fact that an employee is not going to learn as much as they would at a smaller company. A small company or an early stage startup is full of opportunities to learn. If your goal is to start your own company someday, I can make sure you're leaning the things that will help you get there. If you want to be a race car driver, I don't have much for you.

Employment is a two-way agreement. It's true that employers have the upper hand because they typically represent 100% of that person's income. The employee, on the other hand, is 1/N of the workforce. Switching costs are also likely higher for the employee.

For many people, I would imagine that a transparent and honest assessment is preferred to a pretend make-believe world where we imagine that an employee will spend their entire career in one place.


> to make up for the fact that an employee is not going to learn as much as they would at a smaller company.

I don't think that's true at all. Startups are all about reinventing the same wheels every time so you learn how to quickly bang out the same garbage iOS app skeleton for the 2nd dozen time but it's not like startups have cornered the market on new information. Plenty of big companies do really interesting things that you can learn a lot in


I have a bias toward smaller companies. I try to contain it, but I don't always succeed.

As far as the learning part, I didn't mean to restrict "learning" to only mean coding/programming/developing. At a smaller company, if there's something you want to do, you often have more freedom to take it on. There's very little "not my job" allowed or "not your job" enforced.

I realize there are several counter-examples of sociopathic micro-managing, ultra-secretive founders out there. Avoid those people whether at a big company or a small company.

At any rate, if you prefer larger companies, I think it's awesome that you know that. When I interview candidates, I always try to help them figure out their preference. It's not always easy for that person to know. Sometimes their desire for "a" job or a "new" job makes it hard for them to figure out if they want "this" job.

In any case, sorry for making a blanket statement about lack of learning at larger companies. I unintentionally commented on all large companies based only on my own experiences with large companies.


Do you expect a non-bullshit answer? For better or worse, this sounds to me like one of "those" interview questions, and expecting a company to care about what I do next makes about as much sense as expecting the company to treat me like family.


Maybe he's self-selecting for sociopaths/people who are good at telling him what he want's to hear? I've always wondered about an organization consisting of psychopaths. You disguise it as a consulting firm, at which point it severely cripples the target company as they infiltrate and demoralize. Then the evil mastermind covers his short positions/options. Seems like it could make for a good book or movie anyway.


Ha! Funny that you should mention it. I used to run a consulting firm. We got up to 12 people. Of those employees, 2 got married (not to each other), 2 bought a new house (1 bought their first house), 2 moved in from a different state, 6 kids were born (I'm pretty sure it was 6) to 3 different employees, 1 came back to work after a 2 year leave to raise her kids.

Your idea about building, then destroying a company is intriguing. But it would really suck to hurt those people. Or my customers who count on the great work those people do.

I like to think I'm not a sociopath. Posting on HN is probably not a great way to be told what you want to hear. :)


I don't get it. What do you think he "wants" to hear?

I think this is a great question, that's honest about the nature of a skilled employee's relationship to an employer. I don't think it's at all about the employer pretending to care about the employee - it's a straightforward way to find out what the prospective employee wants (other than loads of money, which this employer doesn't have), so that the employer can try to offer it to them. It's classic SPIN selling.


I do spend a fair amount of time letting the person know why I ask the question, where it comes from (Reid Hoffman's book), and why I'm asking. I also position the question as being about a time pretty far in the future (and leave that vague so that it's far enough out for either of us to not make it one of "those" questions).

As far as what I want to hear... I don't have some "right" answer in mind. The question also helps me understand the person a little better than a typical interview question might. If I know their long-term goals, I can have a better idea if they'll be happy with us and we'll be happy with them.



It's hard to get a non-bullshit answer. I qualify my question and spend time explaining that I am serious about the question and that I do realize that it will sound strange. In part, I make sure they know who Reid Hoffman is or that he founded LinkedIn and wrote a book that covers the employee-employer relationship and that the concept of lifetime employment is outdated... I point out that they're out interviewing and looking to leave their current job.

But yes, I do encounter some disbelief that I am asking a real question and am hoping for a real answer.

I'm certainly curious what the community thinks is the right way to discuss a candidate's career after this job. We all know there will be a job after this job and an employee after this employee. Transparency... something that seems to be valued by people on this forum... would seem to require that we talk about it.


> I'm certainly curious what the community thinks is the right way to discuss a candidate's career after this job.

You don't. It's none of your business.


> When I interview candidates I always bring up his book and ask: "If all this goes well and you come work for us, what's next for you after that? Where do you want to be positioned to go after you move on from here?"

If I had an interview and was asked that question, I would consider it an enormous red flag, and would either:

* Give you a vague, non-committal answer,

* Give you the answer I suspect you most want to hear (if possible), or

* Walk out.

How could you expect an honest answer to such a loaded question? Fully-loaded machine guns aren't as loaded as your question above.


  Employers may want to believe their workplace really is 
  like a family, and, in that moment, they may convince 
  themselves it actually is like a family.
When I was an employer, I pretty much embodied this sentiment. To me, work was this great place where smart people meet every day to have fun and solve interesting problems. I couldn't fathom that employees were just there to make money and then forget about everything when they got home. In retrospect, there are two aspects to this:

1) An employee can actually do a 9-5 job AND have a good relationship with their colleagues, have fun at work, and apply themselves - fanatical devotion is not required and should not ever be a criterion for judging performance.

2) However, the "bad" employees I hired (which was totally my mistake in the first place) did all have in common that they didn't care about their work at all. Some even consistently lied, about the work they had actually done, about how much they cared (unprompted), and about how they dealt with customers.

There is a fine line between utter disinterest and having a healthy work-life distance. I'm not surprised so many managers have problems categorizing this.


I find Reid's prognostications quite fascinating. Mostly because they take similar inputs that I have experienced and pull out a different conclusion.

For example I see small companies as much more 'family like' than he does. However my understanding of the word 'family' is not 'fruit of my loin' sort of family, rather of a group with a higher than average social awareness of the peer members. Mostly I want people to treat each other "like family" because if someone is going through a painful divorce and their work output is suffering, I'm not inclined to kick them to the curb. Especially if they were a solid performe before.


I disagree with his point about references. They tell you nothing and are a hundred percent of the time only going to tell you positive things about the employee, regardless of reality. No one with half a brain would ever give a reference out that wasn't going to be positive. Even if you don't have one positive reference, asking a friend to pretend to be one is easy and I don't doubt it happens even when people have qualified references. I'd much rather interview a potential employee than have to use references. The mere thought of references making any difference whatsoever in a hiring decision is rather angering in its stupidity.


The article specifically says to check references other than the ones given by the candidate. I wish Reid would expand on that. If I interview at LinkedIn, is he going to blab to my boss and the world that I'm looking for a new job?

I've been cold-called to give references on people I found weak. Frankly, I'm not going to blurt out a lot of negative data to a stranger. It's either a legal or ethical liability, and what's in it for me to trash a colleague?


I've also gotten those calls, and I don't think it's nearly the legal minefield that people claim. I'll make my point clear enough if it's warranted.

I've also gotten a reference call for someone I terminated and gave them a positive reference, conditioned on the fact that the new company wanted someone with exactly the skills my ex-employee had. I was very clear about why it didn't work out with us, but thought that that it was a very good fit for the new place, given how they described the role and responsibilities. Ex-employee was hired and is (as far as I know) doing very well and happy there.

I think the "I'm only allowed to confirm dates of employment" is a terrible drain on the mobility of good employees and allows higher mobility than should be the case of poor employees, so I don't participate.


Perhaps there's a middle ground? Interviews have a series of notorious problems. References can easily be shills, although note his recommendation to looks for references that didn't come from the candidate. Seems to me that the whole hiring process is a logically-flawed nightmare, so why not include multiple approaches?

I read the comments about only references with no interview to be jocular, not necessarily implying that he is against interviews.


You may be thinking of references from HR. Those won't tell you anything insightful about the candidate. But if I know someone I trust who has worked with the candidate and can give me a strong recommendation, that's a huge factor in my decision.

In other words, my ex-coworkers's co-workers make for a great filter.


>[Hoffman is a] capitalist who made early investments in everything from Facebook to Airbnb

>I was at an Airbnb board meeting and I ran into two former LinkedIn employees who walked up to me and said, 'Hey, how's it going? I'm working here now. I'd love to tell you about some of the stuff that I'm learning.' They know the way that we operate, is not, 'Oh, you've left LinkedIn, so you're no longer part of our tribe.' We continue to be allies.

So he has ownership interests in both companies, and an employee moved between the two. He's like chief of one tribe and minor chieftan of another. He feels righteous because he can be allies with someone who left his major ownership to work under a different company in which he has less-major ownership?

This is the exemplification he is choosing for his earlier quote, "and that the relationship doesn't have to end when the worker leaves?" Come on.


Our CEO has a really great policy about workers moving on. He doesn't chastise them but welcomes their move forward and wishes them the best of luck. He makes it a point to have managers do that as well.

The end result is that many people that have moved on from the company help promote the company and its services at their new place.


>"YOU DON'T FIRE YOUR KID BECAUSE OF BAD GRADES"

At huge traditional Japanese companies, even terrible, negative productivity employees aren't fired (the kid with the bad grades). Part of this is because of regulation, part of this is because they really behave as if they are a family. (Kyocera's maniacal devotion to its company-wide athletics tournament is a famous example)

The company provides you with pay, shelter (corporate dorms), a wife (there are women hired in administrative roles who are of a different category of employee than the full knowledge worker who are expected to marry a male employee and leave the company within some handful of years), commuting expenses, a pension, etc. In return, you are expected to be loyal to the company. And it pays to be loyal, because (1) the upper levels of the companies are all "propers": i.e. people who joined as new grads rather than mid-career transfers, and (2) because pay is backloaded.

Do I think this is a good system? Well, in industries where the development, retention, and continuity of incremental knowledge was important, this seemed to work quite advantageously. When the economy was reliably expanding YoY, seniority based pay and lockstep promotion was feasible since more and more seats could be added in the pyramid structure.

But when the economy stagnates and the backloaded, highly compensated "kids with bad grades" fill the ranks? The youth suffers, and something's gotta give.


> a wife (there are women hired in administrative roles who are of a different category of employee than the full knowledge worker who are expected to marry a male employee and leave the company within some handful of years)

Where can I read more about this? How wide-spread is this practice?


Search for "Ippanshoku" or "Ippan Shoku". The Japanese characters are 一般職.

The more oldschool the company culture and the farther away from major cities (esp. Tokyo/Osaka) you get, the more common it will be. It is very common throughout the Toyota Group where I used to work (which is coincidentally the same geographic area as where patio11 worked).

It's actually a fairly effective social arrangement, though it is understandably very odd from a Western perspective (I was initially appalled, having grown up in SV).


Patrick McKenzie touches on it a bit in his blog: http://www.kalzumeus.com/2014/11/07/doing-business-in-japan/. Search for the part where it says "Don't have a wife?"


>Don’t have a wife? You might quite reasonably think “I don’t have time to even think about that.” Don’t worry — the company will fix your social calendar for you. It is socially mandatory that your boss, in fulfillment of his duties to you, sees that you are set up with a young lady appropriate to your station. He is likely to attempt to do this first by matching you with a young lady in your office.

I can attest to this, having this very situation in action first hand.


>"So we'll ask, 'What's the next job that you would like to have post-LinkedIn?' ... 'It brings some honesty to what is otherwise kind of a collective self-deception dance.'"

...Am I the only one who thinks this guy is self-delusional if he thinks that this brings honesty to the table? Now interview candidates are just going to have to lie about what they think the interviewer wants them to say. Is this going to turn into the next "tell me about your biggest failure"? Maybe we can roll the answers to those two question into one. "My biggest weakness is that I work too hard, sometimes forgoing sleep. In a sleep deprived stupor, I'll probably accidentally accept a middle manager job at ResumeCo.com, when trying to perform some corporate espionage as a double-agent".


The longer my career gets, the more I realize this to be true. This also has the added disadvantage that the employers take the employees lightly. In a family, the head of the family has more power than others. If employers considered an employee's duration at the company more as a contract, then they would also work harder to keep the other party satisfied with the contract. Unfortunately, the relationship is tilted in favor of the employer due to the fact that a loss of employment generally has worse consequences for the employee that for the employer.


Treating an employee's duration like a contract is a terrible idea. It puts into the employer's head that the employee is just a temporary expense, which starts begging the question - just how temporary can I make this employee?


Have you considered that most companies--especially in tech--already are doing that?

They'd be stupid not to.


Yes, I'm certain I've worked for more than one employer who felt that way. And I've considered contract employees that way. It's what inspired me to write my comment.

Of course, since I am again a contractor, I'm getting some perspective about my feelings while at my previous employer.


[deleted]


What point?


That whole "we're a big, happy family is annoying". The company I previously worked at it was big into it.

It seemed to work for them when they were small (<= 50 employees and before I was there), but once they got to a certain size it just became annoying.

They used to have these monthly "before work hours" meetings that turned into bi-monthly meetings that were especially annoying. They would trot out some executive to say this and that and also had this weird group of employees that would dress up in costumes and put on these weird little skits.

But the final straw for me was when we were acquired by another company and they started trotting out the new executive team. One lady was showing pictures of her family riding 4-wheelers. That was it.

"I'm sure you're a nice lady, but I don't care. We have our own families".

I told my boss that I wouldn't be attending these anymore and I would give my resignation if he wanted. He grinned and said he understands..it was annoying to him too.

I think I left a couple months after that. The whole sappy-happy family wasn't the main reason, but it sure was annoying.


Companies typically get back exactly as much loyalty as they are willing to extend to their employees. So there's a hint if you want loyal employees.


"he sits atop the largest, most data-rich hiring platform the world has ever seen"...

How would one extrapolate the "loyalty" issue from that vast amount of data at LinkedIn?

It seems the point is being made in order to give Reid Hoffman a segue to explain his company's approach to hiring, instead of actually attempting to find "the biggest lie" based on actual data.


A lot of this rings true from my days working in hotels. You could work for Marriott or Starwood and hop between brands, but still be a part of that company. If you jump ship some people would get awkward and not know if they should talk to you. It's the strangest thing I've seen. At the same time it made the 6mo - 18mo tenures in startups seem super small and non-comital. Maybe it's more of an issue with larger companies.


"The biggest lie is that the employment relationship is like family."


It's more like a relationship you have with a girlfriend you know that you'll never marry.


This goes two ways. Oftentimes employees act like entitled children as well. You are not "owed" anything for your loyalty to a company other than a paycheck for services rendered.


Well, would you not feel entitled to something if you were told "do this, keep at it, and surely you will be rewarded with X".

Quotes to look out for in that regard: "You're going places", "You have a future in this company", "Your work is so valuable".


Indeed. Many employees expect the company to bear very significant, parental-type responsibilities without assuming any real obligations themselves. Employment is a new transaction between two parties every day -- it occurs only so long as it's mutually beneficial, just like every other transaction. No one, neither employer nor employee, should expect more than that.


Whats loyalty then if not doing things that aren't fully in your own interests for the interests of the group? Why do people insist on simplifying relationships and work to a transactional standpoint? Do you not see the significance it has on your life?


There are parts you love and parts you hate. And at some point you decide to severe contact.

I don't see why this analogy fails ;)


"I order you to stand around and drink beer until you're as loyal as Kif here." - Zapp Brannigan, "Futurama"


"You don't fire your kid because of bad grades"

Hoffman seems to underestimate how dysfunctional some families are :)


Wage work is simply a variation on slavery where the 'employee' finds his own food and lodging. Money is just a simple technology for officializing and perpetuating class.


>And now he wants both workers and employers to begin having honest conversations with each other — conversations that admit employment isn't for life, that loyalty only lasts so long as it coincides with self-interest, and that the relationship doesn't have to end when the worker leaves.

I read this and immediately thought of McKinsey as the best company that manages the relationship between the firm and the individual throughout the latter's professional career.


For me the biggest "lie" is that companies want employees to settle at their company and at the same time they don't offer contracts that don't expire.


I'm surprised no one has mentioned Netflix since they've seemingly embraced something similar to this honesty as an integral part of their company culture.


You work to get paid. If you are well enough off you don't need to work to get paid you aren't working any more.


Some people actually find meaning in work and would continue to work beyond their financial necessities.


I wrote something similar a few months ago: http://www.yegor256.com/2015/03/02/team-morale-myths-and-rea...


Employees and employers lie/deceive each other (point two), so assertion in point number four, "employers put too much weight on interviews, and too little weight on references" is questionable.


Could we replace the LinkBait title with a more informative description like "LinkedIn's Reid Hoffman on the biggest employer lie: the company is like a family".


We replaced it with a phrase from the first sentence.

First paragraphs often contain a more accurate and neutral description of what an article is about. It's as if, having baited you in with the title, they immediately start walking it back.


In publishing, it's the editors who compose the titles, not the writers. This is why the writer's lede is so frequently a more reliable point of entry to the story.


Clickbait on HN. Great.

tl;dr "The biggest lie is that the employment relationship is like family," Hoffman says.


Of course CEO of a company that coordinates credential evaluations between employers and employees thinks that this is more important than interviews. His business depends on it.


It seems that every post on "how to fix hiring" was written by someone who has a product that claims to fix hiring.


Frequently employers are so casual about references they either a) don't check them, or b) only check the ones the prospective candidate gives them.

See, that's a problem. That stands out more than any of the good things that he might say. People talk and things come out and shit happens, but deliberately going behind someone's back for back-channel references is just plain unprofessional, if not unethical. This is the kind of behavior that has the rest of the country (in which ethical standards aren't seen as old-fart ideals to be "disrupted" but are actually considered important) thinking that we, in tech, are a bunch of immature psychopaths.

The back-channel reference check is an unprofessional show of power-- like waving a gun around at work-- because it takes social access to get any information out of it (people don't just offer candid opinions up to complete strangers). What's communicated by the back-channel reference check is "your colleagues are more loyal to me than to you". There's a fucking reason why people outside of tech consider it unprofessional and borderline unethical.


> People talk and things come out and shit happens, but deliberately going behind someone's back for back-channel references is just plain unprofessional, if not unethical.

It's not unprofessional or unethical.

> The back-channel reference check is an unprofessional show of power-- like waving a gun around at work-- because it takes social access to get any information out of it

For it to be a show of power, such an action would have to involve "showing" something. It's actually an attempt to avoid hiring bad employees -- that's the benefit people get.

> (people don't just offer candid opinions up to complete strangers).

This merely raises the threshold of badness before they might offer negative information. If their coworker was bad enough, they would. And do.

> What's communicated by the back-channel reference check is "your colleagues are more loyal to me than to you".

The miscommunication is on your end.

(Also, your former colleagues don't owe you or some potential employer "loyalty.")


Michael O Church once lost a job due to a "back-channel reference check", so that explains why he's so hostile to them.

Also, in the USA, there are rules limiting what you can say about a former employee. By giving a negative back-channel reference, you and your employer might be susceptible to a lawsuit. However, actually suing a former employer for something like that is probably a bad idea, because (1) it'd be hard to prove it (2) it would make you even less employable when other people find out about the lawsuit.

If I ever am in a position to do hiring, I probably wouldn't do it, because I'd trust my judgement more than someone else's.


> Also, in the USA, there are rules limiting what you can say about a former employee.

You can't defame former employees but you can say true things about them. State laws, generally speaking, do not prohibit you from saying (true) stuff about former employees, in fact some have clauses protecting you from defamation lawsuits. At the most basic level it's a 1st amendment right, the Constitution doesn't have a secret section on employment law.


Many employers have a policy of only giving job title and dates of employment, to prevent any possible lawsuit. However, if you say it with sufficient disgust in your voice, it'll be obvious that you're giving a negative reference.

Even if what you are saying is true, that still doesn't mean it can't lead to a lawsuit.


Anything can lead to a lawsuit.


Michael O Church once lost a job due to a "back-channel reference check", so that explains why he's so hostile to them.

To tell the whole story... "you should see the other guy." :)

I did eventually get my revenge. Six months later when I had the money, I hired a PI to figure out who gave the bad back-channel reference (it wasn't even someone I worked under) and found out that he was sleeping with one of his subordinates. Had the news dropped at his work, to his wife, and at his kids' school on the same afternoon. God works through people.

By giving a negative back-channel reference, you and your employer might be susceptible to a lawsuit. However, actually suing a former employer for something like that is probably a bad idea, because (1) it'd be hard to prove it (2) it would make you even less employable when other people find out about the lawsuit.

A termination lawsuit makes you less employable. I don't know that the same holds over a bad reference, because pretty much anyone would sue someone who damaged their careers in such a lasting and petty way. Getting fired is something that happens to everyone and while most of us aren't fired in an illegal way or for illegal reasons, most people will be fired in an unjust way at least once in a 40-year career, so the prevailing attitude (right or wrong) is that a successful, competent person will just dust himself off and find another job. Bad reference issues are much less common and most people (the rhetorical "reasonable man") would agree that you have to do something permanent and brutal about that.

Wrongful T lawsuits are dangerous to your career because (a) every company or manager will have to fire someone, given enough time, so it's far from clear that your opponent did anything wrong (b) they bring a lot of dirty laundry (on you and the company) into the public, and if there's no dirt on you, they make something up, and (c) your odds of winning aren't good unless you can easily prove discrimination.

When you sue over a bad reference, you're suing an individual (not "an employer") and you're also suing over something that would lead pretty much anyone to lawyer up, so the air about you isn't "he got let go and sued his company" but "someone tried to fuck up his reputation and he fought back".


Michael, while I usually enjoy your rants, getting revenge like this is insane, and admitting to it on a public forum attached to your real name is a whole 'nother level of crazy. No personal offense intended, but I would never ever in a million years hire or associate personally with somebody who did what you did.


All I can say is that I hope you're never in a position where you have to do "insane" things to protect your own life or career. It's an experience that I wouldn't wish on another person.


Thanks, I hope I'm never put in the position that I would have to do such things to protect my life and career, either.

Admittedly, I don't know much about what actually happened in your situation, but does hiring a PI and going after someone 6 months after the fact protect your life or career? How, exactly? You say you had money (presumably through employment) at this point. Why not just move on and forget about that episode of your life?

That's the sort of vindictiveness that would make me afraid to associate with a person.


The PI didn't actually cost that much. I helped out someone he cared about. That's another story.

The person was able to hurt me because he, through a certain station, had the credibility that made what he might say about other people (such as me) matter. His opinions would be taken seriously. After taking a hit, I fixed the problem. It wasn't about vengeance. It was about doing just enough to fix the problem, then moving on. He didn't lose his job per se but I made him enough of a laughingstock that no one would take his word over anyone else's, thus making me safe from him.

After being attacked, it's not unreasonable to think that such defenses are needed in order to protect the future.

I wouldn't do that sort of thing after a "things didn't work out" situation, even if things ended badly or I got fired. I'm an adult; I'll move on. Likewise, I wouldn't retaliate against someone just for saying that I was a jerk or that he didn't like me. (Plenty of people say that I'm a jerk. That's fine.) There has to be a lot more, like fraudulent negative claims about past work performance... something that sounds objective and can be damaging... before I'm ready to fuck up someone's life. People have the right not to like me and to say that they don't; what they don't have the right to do is to deliberately damage my reputation with fraudulent or inaccurate claims.

This was a case where someone deliberately tried to damage me after I had moved far away from him. There was an act of war, and I fought back with force, and I won. I don't believe in starting fights but I do believe in ending them.


But how were you certain that this person gave the bad reference, since it was back channel after all? Hell, how did you even knkw a bad reference was given? How did that effect you? The logistics of this story make me more skeptical than audaciousness of it.


I had the luxury of other people talking too much. If not for that, I wouldn't have known.

Hell, how did you even knkw a bad reference was given?

I was able to find out what was said. Again, if all someone had said was "I don't like him", that wouldn't have been an issue. This person made negative, fraudulent claims about me and my past work performance in front of enough people that it was impossible for him to hide his tracks.

People who do bad things are usually awful at keeping secrets. There are exceptions, of course, but generally the traits that incline a person toward malice and petty conspiracy are not traits that make a person good at keeping secrets.


> There are exceptions, of course, but generally the traits that incline a person toward malice and petty conspiracy are not traits that make a person good at keeping secrets.

If there was ever a time for "show, don't tell"...


How would you even know that you've lost a job due to a back-channel reference check? Several times, I thought an interview went really well, and then they never got back to me. They don't give a reason.


How would you even know that you've lost a job due to a back-channel reference check?

Word gets around, and people doing things that are inappropriate tends to get around faster. Obviously, you're not guaranteed to know about it every time that this happens. Sometimes you find out, sometimes you won't. It's when you do find out that you can try to do something about it (not that there's any change of getting the job back, but in terms of revenge on the people who got involved in your business).

Several times, I thought an interview went really well, and then they never got back to me. They don't give a reason.

Of course. That's typical, and usually the reason doesn't matter. It's rarely something scandalous that merits anything other but "eh, guess that didn't happen". Most of the time, getting turned down for a job is just a regular lack-of-chemistry thing not worth getting bent out of shape over.


If a former employer or colleague ever gave any of this information without me giving them as references I would be pissed. Maybe it is a cultural/personal thing (no FB, no G+, no twitter) but I take privacy VERY seriously and I expect people I deal with to do as well. If I have to provide a reference, I always contact the person first and ask if it is ok to give their details to the company that will contact them. I actually had a few people that asked me not to give their details (not due to the reference, but because of sharing contact details with people they don't know). On the other hand, I've been in the Bay Area for a bit, and seems everyone and their mother is happy to let everyone know every minute of their fucking lives, so I can understand why people think it isn't a big deal.


I myself think hearing about cold-call reference checks from past coworkers when getting a job would make me think twice about an employer. It's annoying, perhaps inconsiderate -- that doesn't mean it's unethical, or a show of power of all things. The main reason is that here my friends are getting annoyed, and to a small degree the information leakage. (You could probably also get in touch with a set of people you select, without going around the candidate.) A non-cold-call check, between people that know each other, is different because it lacks this factor.

I think you, informally, have a reasonable expectation of privacy that people won't go broadcasting stuff about your behavior in an office, but not a reasonable expectation that people would not help individual colleagues avoid wasting five or six figures of money, not to mention a lot of personal stress and annoyance, by trading money for time with a certain person. The office is not a confession booth, or even a private household. You're probably willing to share details about how you got treated by sellers on eBay -- likewise, the workplace is not a completely personal situation.


"It's not unprofessional or unethical."

In general it is unprofessional, unethical, and bad for the market.

Do I really need to explain why putting another persons current job at risk in order to gain a small advantage for yourself is unethical and unprofessional?

It is one thing if you have a team member or good friend who has worked with the candidate in the past and another entirely to go digging into somebodies working history to find old/current colleagues/managers to talk to.


It's not any of those things and avoiding bad employees certainly is good for the market, it prevents wasteful expenditure.

> Do I really need to explain why putting another persons current job at risk in order to gain a small advantage for yourself is unethical and unprofessional?

To say you're putting somebody's current job at risk is completely hyperbolic. They've already accepted your offer, if they lose their job (how?) and you hire them, you aren't putting them at risk. (And what, you think a past coworker is going to contact an employee's current boss and tell him the employee's going to leave? Yeah right. It's implausible that that would happen in any particular case, not implausible that it happened nonzero times in the universe, but again, you're hiring them anyway. Unless it turns out they're horrible to work with, in which case, the employer and the employer's other employees avoided a lot of needless suffering.)

> It is one thing if you have a team member or good friend who has worked with the candidate in the past and another entirely to go digging into somebodies working history to find old/current colleagues/managers to talk to.

You've put a distinction here but you lack an explanation why one behavior is immoral or unethical. (Specifically for old colleagues/managers.) Yes, you do need to spell it out. Or you could just not bother because who cares.


"They've already accepted your offer"

What makes you think the kind of reference checks the article is talking about happens after an offer has been made and accepted?

In my experience these kind of reference checks happen well before an offer is made, and they are often run in parallel on the top few candidates. So the majority of people reference checked are not offered the role.

"And what, you think a past coworker is going to contact an employee's current boss and tell him the employee's going to leave?"

I've seen word get around plenty of times even without any backdoor reference checks going on.

"avoiding bad employees certainly is good for the market"

Except if you don't know the person you are talking to then how can you judge the accuracy of what they have to say when they provide a reference?

Edit: In fact if they want to do it it should be stated as part of their application process. Then people who feel it is invasive and unethical can simply not apply for those jobs. And if they do a great job at weeding out bad apples then eventually it will become accepted practice.


> What makes you think the kind of reference checks the article is talking about happens after an offer has been made and accepted?

It talks about checking the references given by the candidate in the same breath, there's a certain spatial locality there. Also whatever vagueness there is in the article does not open up the door for unqualified bitching.

> Except if you don't know the person you are talking to then how can you judge the accuracy of what they have to say when they provide a reference?

Using social skills.


Using social skills.

I am not the most socially skilled person in the world. On the field, I doubt I'm even 50th percentile. Probably 35th, to be honest.

That said, judging from everything you've posted, you're a fucking poster boy for the Dunning-Kruger Effect. So... I lolt. Nice job. You got a chuckle and two-thirds out of me.


Actually, I'm quite aware that the output half of my "social skills" is horrible.


My previous reply got killed so I'm just going to say this. Rescinding an offer based on a back-channel reference is not just unethical, but it's dangerous to your legal position and your reputation.

If you pass on a candidate (before the offer stage) based on a back-channel reference, then you're being unethical but you probably won't get caught, because people rarely probe (or are even able to do so) into why someone pased. If you actually rescind an offer over a bad reference... you'll have to cut a sizable hush fee to come out safe.

That said, I can't tell at this point if your fascist schtick is trolling or serious, but it's disturbing either way.




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