I failed. You see, there was a really talented Consumer Product Manager at Google that I was trying to get over to YouTube. He’d decided to leave Mountain View and work on a new startup, but I thought there was an opening. Maybe he was running away from the increasingly process-driven and bureaucratic nature of the PM role? Maybe if I could convince him that here, in San Bruno, the speed was different and the team more nimble, he’d stay? Give me a good year or two before taking on the challenges of entrepreneurship….

He turned me down. For the right reasons at least. In a moment of proverbial desperation I blocked the door as he exited the office we’d grabbed. “Give me a name,” I said. “If not you, who should I hire for this role?” He thought for a second and answered. That person joined our product team just a few weeks later.

Sometimes the best candidate referrals can come from the people who just turned down your job offer. Why?

Of course this doesn’t work all the time and should be constructive and polite, not exploitive and demanding. Often the reason they declined the opportunity was a personal decision about their circumstances, preferred working style, and so on, not an absolute critique of you as a company (those folks drop out earlier in the process). But I am surprised at how often I encounter really smart hiring managers who don’t take advantage of this channel.

What are some ‘best practices’ in asking for a lead in this fashion?

Have you done this successfully too? Anything I’m missing in terms of playbook? Or questions you have?

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