➢ Recruiting and the Spouse


Recruiting – Dinner with the candidate’s spouse and surprises

If there are going to be surprises in the recruiting process, let them be early.  Dinner with the spouse, like reference checking, tends to be at the very end of the process, and surprises at the end may mean we have wasted significant resources and time for nothing.  References should be checked as soon as you have strong interest in a candidate, after the first interview, not the last.  And reference information can be very helpful in framing the second interview outline.

Dinner with the spouse?  Not all companies want to meet the spouse or partner, but we think it’s a good idea.  It is, however, difficult to move that step up in the process, both from a logistics and cost standpoint.   You don’t want to meet the spouse when he or she is in town for a house hunting trip, because at that point your offer of employment has been accepted and there is no going back if you get a surprise.

What do spouse surprises look like?  Well, dinner with the spouse can reveal an unhealthy or deteriorating marital relationship, a controlling or dominant spouse, an odd or nontraditional personality, or inappropriateness, such as too much alcohol, talking over people, insensitivity, courtesy issues, bad manners or severe outspokenness.   Or it may become clear the spouse is unsupportive of your candidate in some way, or even not interested in the position or in relocating to your location.  You might be surprised how little candidates share with a spouse while in the midst of interviews.  Sometimes extreme political or religious views will become apparent.  All these things can come out during these meetings, and any reasonably perceptive executive can pick up on them over the course of an evening.  That should be the objective.

Is any of this our business?  Of course it is, because any or all of these situations can impact performance on the job, and all of them tell us something about the candidate and his/her makeup.

But to get to the heart of the matter, how can we get at some of these issues earlier?  One answer is to have a member of your team conduct an interview at the candidate’s location, and offer to have the spouse join them for dinner.  It’s a nice gesture and it accomplishes our end.

The other means of getting at some of these issues is to spend real time in the interviews talking about the candidate’s life outside the job.  You may not be able to ask direct questions about the spouse or relationship, because it would be awkward and even illegal to do so.  But you can ask about the family, life away from work, hobbies and outside interests, children, personal passions and so forth.

People like to talk about themselves and about what is important to them personally. Just get them started and sit back.  You can certainly ask about family members, who they are and what they like to do and what’s important to them, as well.  All of this can be couched in a general discussion about the candidate’s history.  You can start with his childhood, as we do, and ask about what it was like to grow up where they did, and their family as a child.  This can be very enlightening, because we are all shaped by parents and their beliefs.  We all came from someplace, and you should know where that is.