Friday 17 October 2014 7:55 am

The “Old Boys Club” is still alive and well: Half of top City jobs go to those with connections

The tendency of the British Conservative Party to put former members of Oxford University's notorious Bullingdon Club into positions of power has not gone unnoticed, with David Cameron, Boris Johnson and George Osborne all having been part of the exclusive men's group.  
But research has shown that it is not just the world of politics that is affected by this “old boys club” mentality.
According to due diligence firm HireRight, a less visible practice of giving the top jobs to those with connections is rife in the City of London, and roles are often handed out without conducting any background checks.
By interviewing 140 heads of HR at some of the UK's largest organisations, including many in the City, they found that 49 per cent of all top positions go to those with connections in high places. 
They were able to conclude that these connections were helping individuals to secure jobs, rather than it being a simple case of successful people having successful friends, from the admission by 46 per cent of boards that they relied on personal recommendations when hiring new members.
Additionally, they found that almost half of all HR leaders knew of major organisations where chief executives were put through fewer interviews and tests than graduates, with a third admitting that this was even the case in their own company. They said they would often just assume candidates applying for senior positions had not lied on their CVs or applications.
This attitude means one in three chief executives currently does not go through any form of due diligence during their appointment to a role, and a quarter of HR leaders believe their board members may have never had their qualifications, work history, criminal record or media profile looked into.
But HireRight provided a number of examples of situations where, once the credentials of an applicant for a top level position at a firm were investigated, they did not match with what had been claimed.
One candidate applying for a board level role in a financial services firm was found to have a conviction for perjury, while another applying to be a director in an oil and gas company lied about their first class degree – they had actually started a secretarial course but failed to finish it, according to the university.
When a technology firm checked the references of a high level senior developer, his former employer revealed that not only had he been misleading with his job title and salary, but he had stolen software under development from the firm in order to set up his own company.
For one in three organisations, the practice of hiring connections without conducting background checks is so common that it could result in a “reputational scandal”, according to the report. 
“Leaders are no longer figureheads only at carefully orchestrated press conferences. An entire organisation’s reputation can be damaged with a mobile phone image or an inaccurate CV, followed by the click of a mouse,” said Steve Girdler, managing director of HireRight. 
“Yet companies are putting the reputation and success of their entire business at risk by not carrying out suitable levels of due diligence on their board members – who clearly pose a significantly greater threat than graduates.”