When do contacts become nepotism?

This sort of thing is used extensively in China

I know of law firms that have been hired because people knew each other in college or because their dad is a politician, etc. Of course there are literally dozens of qualified applicants within your network so its not a horrible filtering method.

I live in an area (South Texas Border) where extended families, and not just Hispanic/Mexican-American ones, are expected to provide for relatives. To outsiders, the local culture seems hopelessly clannish. To natives, loyalty and family obligations are positive values in a harsh landscape and impoverished community. I think some local politicians, businesses, and institutions honestly have no concept of “nepotism” as a negative value. I suspect similar values prevail in other places with this type of history.

The line becomes rather blurred when factors like “trust” or “fits our culture” becomes part of the explicit hiring process.

You also have to wonder, in a political process (specifically referencing Singapore) where does meritocracy stop and nepotism start?

A highly qualified candidate - who comes from a known and trusted family, should they be given more credence that an equally clever candidate who is less “known”?

Do it at home (in the US), and it’s just a good old boy network. Go to China and try it, and the Feds may come knocking.

Nepotism is why I’ve never wanted to work for a family business.

I don’t blame you on that count, but I’ve seen rampant nepotism in non-political government jobs. “Bring your child to work day” served basically as a pre-employment screening. Sure the kids weren’t hired by their own parent, but one was hired by another’s parent and vice versa. I’ve also seen it in private corporations such as a chain restaurant I worked at. Most of the new hires were either someone’s girlfriend or in-law if not blood relatives, and they were promoted to assistant managers without delay.

edit: “Bring your child to work day” served as a job fair.

There’s still the possibility of logrolling. If there are anti-nepotism policies that prohibit hiring your own relatives, you just get together with your friend Joe and make a deal - he gives your kid a job and you hire his kid.

Common occurrence:

Boss: Joe, I have to let you go?
Joe: Why am I doing something wrong?
Boss: No, your fine. But my nephew needs a job.

I actually worked at one place where every decent job was filled by a relative.

One contractor we had was good until they hired this guys nephew who was such a pain plus he refused to follow the chain of command and take orders from anyone but his uncles. He drove many top people to quit and nearly drove the company under.

Now if you all will forgive me if this sounds prejudice but I’ve heard in many Chinese and Indian companies that part of the problem they have for growth is their is such nepotism it makes the company hard to grow because they literally run out of relatives but are loathe to hire or promote non-relatives even if it would be best for the company.

One important reason for keeping it in the family is that skimming and other chicanery is easier to sustain. When the contractor building the new store puts an addition on the owner’s house for “free”, the son of the owner managing the bid process makes it less likely that someone will tip off the tax authorities.

In my opinion, nepotism is solely when you get the job over someone more qualified. Where, all other things being equal, you would clearly not be the better choice. Everything else really just comes down to networking - the person hiring has a choice between various seemingly equal quantities, and he goes with the known quantity, rather than the unknown. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s only a problem when you pass up talent in favor of family.

Well, that’s not what nepotism is, BPC. That’s just discrimination simpliciter. (sidenote)

On the grand scale, nepotism is only a problem for public entities (municipalities, state govt. fed. govt.). If we want government to be the most efficient based on what we are paying into it, we don’t want whole departments to be family-run, we want positions to be awarded based on merit.

I think we have all seen instances where when the company was handed over to the founders heirs, the heirs ruined it.

In the case of nepotism, the advantage comes from accident of birth. So many people are convinced that their relatives are better or have an ulterior motive for getting them hired that you can’t trust them.

Contacts are different, in that you don’t get someone to vouch for you unless you do good work, as in Bricker’s example. Anyone in a position to hand out any kind of job has had people try to use you as a contact where you say, “I’ll see what I can do,” and then dump the resume. In any case a contact just lets you get your foot in the door - you still have to interview. I doubt relatives really have to interview.

But you also have cases like Pete in Mad Men, or the scions of Chinese clients being hired by JP Morgan. I’ve often seen people hired and have no more function than a piece of fancy furniture in the office, with no family connection to their employer but firing them or even making any sorts of demands on them at all would be detrimental to the client relationship, or reputation with the good old boy network as a whole. As you can guess, these people tend to be insufferable twats.