Interview Questions: ‘Do You Know Anyone that Works for Us?’

Illustration of a man and a woman sitting at a desk with speech bubbles

How many job interviews have you attended and wondered why you were asked a particular question? At first, certain interview questions make you scratch your head. But then once you start thinking about it after the face-to-face chat, you realise the motivations behind some of these queries.

One of these interview questions is, ‘Do you know anyone that works for us?’ While this should, in theory, elicit a one-word response, it’s common sense that every answer mandates several words.

Statistically speaking, HR departments understand the power of having friends at the office; it enhances engagement, productivity, retention and job satisfaction. The job may get you down from time to time, but knowing that you can confide in someone at the office, or even just have a chit chat about an episode of Dragnet can make you feel better.

That said, we have compiled a guide on how to answer, ‘Do you know anyone that works for us?’ in order for you to tackle this question successfully at your next interview.

Why hiring managers ask this question

When the hiring manager presents you with this question, it may seem like a simple yes or no will suffice. But it is important to remember that most interview questions are asked with a purpose. They are not randomly thrown out there for the applicant to respond flippantly and then move on to why you are the best candidate for the job.

The idea behind this question is to test your character and see how you know the person, especially if they are higher up on the totem pole. Plus, the hiring manager might also be aware that employees with a friend at the office are seven times more likely to be productive and engaged with their work.

Even if this question is not relevant to you, the employer may still be interested to know if you are deeply ingrained in the industry and are aware of sales agents, customer service representatives, consultants or anyone else affiliated with the business or the sector.

How to craft a response

So, you know why you are being asked this question. The next step is to craft an answer that would satisfy the hiring manager, make you look good in the process and bolster your chances of being offered the position. Here are a few tips on for coming up with a good response.

1. Review the company’s corporate policy

Whether you checked it off or not, if the application asked if you were referred by anyone, you should be ready to be asked, ‘Do you know anyone that works for us?’. Therefore, it would be prudent to peruse corporate policy and find out what the rules and regulations are regarding friends, family members and spouses in the workplace. Some HR departments may be stricter about employees working alongside someone close to them to prevent personal issues from spilling into the office.

You don’t want to make the mistake of not being aware of these kinds of pertinent details.

2. Be aware of your contact’s performance at work

Is the friend or relative who recommended that you apply for the job a model worker? This is a critical question to ask because, as the saying goes, ‘You are the company you keep.’ In other words, if you know for certain that this person is always late for work, unproductive or detests their superiors, it would be best not to mention that individual’s name. Or, if you do, be sure not to focus too much on your relationship with them.

First impressions matter, so if the interviewer thinks you share the same work ethic as Lazy Lisa or Tardy Tim, then they might not be impressed at all.

3. Highlight their strengths

Should you be prepared for a follow-up question? It doesn’t hurt to be ready for something along the lines of, ‘How would you judge their work ethic?’ Indeed, if you fly in the same flock, then this could be an advantage or disadvantage to your prospects. This ties into the previous point, but the difference is that you should highlight your acquaintance’s strengths.

4. Determine if the person works for a competitor

In today’s ultra-competitive marketplace, many companies are careful about hiring people who have close ties to someone who is employed at a chief industry rival. When you let the firm know that you are acquainted with somebody who used to work for them, find out if that individual works for a competitor now.

Example answers

So, how do you even answer, ‘Do you know anyone who works for us?’ anyway? We have compiled some sample answers that will help you tailor yours.

Any of these examples can be added to your pre-interview preparation. Like all other interview questions, you want to hit this one out of the ballpark.

Let’s dive in!

If you know someone who works at the office

‘I am friends with a current employee: Bob, one of your accounting managers. We went to school together, where we both majored in the same subject. Bob thought I would be a great candidate for the position, so he informed me that you were looking to hire someone who is experienced in this field. So, here I am.’

If you know a person who used to be employed at the firm

‘At my previous place of employment, a colleague used to work at your company before eventually coming to work for my former employer. She had great things to say about your organisation and mentioned that you are always searching for new talent to join your business. After deciding to seek a new job, I came across this opportunity at your company. She encouraged me to apply for this position almost immediately, so I did, and here we are.’

If you do not know anyone at the company

‘I do not know anyone working at your firm. But I have been in this industry for seven years, and I am acquainted with some of your past employees. We have crossed paths before, and one of your former staff members, Leonard, who was a senior manager in advertising, told me that I should apply for your business whether you are hiring somebody or not. He thought I would be a great fit for your team.’

If you have connections on LinkedIn

‘Unfortunately, I am not associated with anyone at your firm. However, since we are professionals in the same industry, I share connections with at least two of your employees on LinkedIn: Samantha and Jack from marketing. I have never met them personally, but from what I have seen, I believe, if given the opportunity, we would work well together within the marketing department.

Job interviews are usually the final step in an arduous hiring process. For professionals, it is a multi-step process: updating your CV, searching for work, submitting an application, partaking in a telephone interview and then sauntering into the dragon’s den, finally.

Are you prepared for it? They say that you should never be intimidated by the interviewer. The only way to not feel menaced is to get ready for a wide array of questions – hardballs and softballs.


This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 21 November 2014.