I recently heard a story of a person who was listed as a reference by a job applicant. Upon hearing about this great job (big opportunity for a small town) the reference pitched herself as a better option for the job. And…. the company hired her, leaving the applicant they had put through weeks of interviews on the sideline.

Now, this story has several elements. First, I only heard one side of the story (and stories have a way of being told from the point of view of the storyteller). Yet, no matter how you slice this tale is has some ethical issues that can be called into question.

The woman who took her friend’s opportunity and spun it into her new career admitted to the original applicant that she was jealous of such a great job and wanted it. She also was crying when she told him the details, clearly showing she was not fully proud of her actions. 

They were good enough friends (former co-workers) that they would hang out together on occasion with her spouse and shared many mutual friends. I imagine that friendship is now over.

Then there is the company. While checking references decided to hire the person who applicant listed as a reference. Now I have no way of knowing if they would have gone all the way and hired this guy (they had gotten to the calls to references), but either way I wonder if this is the right hiring technique. Also, they had worked through a headhunter, and it now sounds like they are bypassing paying the placement fee since they did not hire the search firm’s candidate. Afterall, they found this person on their own….right? (I don’t know if they are skipping out on the placement fee, but I would think the headhunter is owed their part based on the series of events that lead to this hire).

What do you think? Do ethics matter in love, war and business? Or is all fair?

The moral of this story is to think twice about who you list as a reference on a job application.

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