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The dangers of recommending a friend for a job

I have to admit that I’m a hypocrite in this regard. I’ve recommended friends for jobs – smart, well spoken, well presented and generally awesome friends – and it’s worked out fine. My former boss even made mention of this in his farewell speech on my last day. And I’ve also chipped in my two cents of approval in regard to candidates that I did not recommend, but knew a little about nonetheless.

But it doesn’t always work out. I’ve seen this firsthand. Workplace chemistry is a funny thing. Personality clashes can arise and temperaments ill-fitted to the daily tasks at hand make themselves evident.

Yet it’s so much easier when there’s some kind of established connection, no matter how tenuous. That’s why warm leads > cold calls every time. I’d bet managers put more weight on personal recommendations, seeing as they say the majority of jobs are never advertised publicly. You could call it nepotism, as someone I know does, or you could call it human nature or common sense.

Hiring is a long process, recruiting from outside can be expensive, and so it makes sense to tap your networks first. Any edge you can get as a candidate is a huge bonus, hence the importance of staying on contacts’ radar. I have one – let’s call her M – whom I’ve worked with a little, but to be honest, I tend to forget about her entirely in between the rare Facebook status I see from her (she seems to have given up on Twitter and doesn’t do much on LinkedIn, and we’re not close enough to email). Every so often she checks in with me, however – once, just AFTER a job had been filled at my company, and another time, just as a new opportunity had been sent out (in the vein of an all-staff email mentioning the vacancy and welcoming suggestions). Had she not, I’d never have thought of her.

Back to my point. Suggesting friends for jobs: if it goes well, awesome. If it turns sour, it reflects terribly on you. Not to be taken lightly; always err on the side of caution.

Would you ever recommend a friend for a job, or have you?

14 thoughts on “The dangers of recommending a friend for a job

  • Reply Janine January 14, 2013 at 10:56

    This is such a hard thing! On one hand you don’t want to let your friend down, but on the other hand if you recommend someone for a position that isn’t capable your workplace could look down on you!

  • Reply krantcents January 14, 2013 at 11:03

    I have recommended friends and they have recommended me. Friends are part of your network so it is no surprise to help each other out. I am very careful when I recommend someone or a business because I think it reflects on me.

  • Reply Funny about Money January 14, 2013 at 12:27

    Well, sure. What are friends for, after all? 😉

    Seriously: yes, I have recommended friends for jobs, and certainly have recommended former employees who have risen to the level of friends over time.

    In the US, there are some questions prospective employers are not allowed to ask, and by and large this prevents them from asking things that might be touchy. They’ll call with a set series of plain-vanilla questions. In response, I try to say as little as possible while maintaining a positive tone.

  • Reply Sense January 14, 2013 at 14:46

    Absolutely! I am in a unique position in a very sought after, competitive field. I also have contacts in some very big names in that field at one of the major universities in the US, so I get asked a lot about my connections. Being in a university in NZ, the grad students that I work with (and am friends with) constantly need recommendations and a leg up, so to speak, when they graduate. For the best of them (there have been two in the last 4-5 years), I canvass my entire network and write a very nice note about their good qualities to a select one or two colleagues most likely needing the student’s particular brand of services. For the others, I tend to just ask my other friends in the US (e.g., not big names or likely hirers, but still ‘in the know’) if they’ve heard of any open positions, and pass on that info as necessary.

    This benefits me because I keep in contact with my …contacts in preparation for my own move to the US. It also keeps me in the best students’ good books–academia is nothing but about who you know–and these students are definitely going to go far. I like to think of it as paying forward in a way that will eventually move me ahead as well. At least, I hope so!

    Of course, I’ve also done the recommend-a-stranger thing at my old company for a guy who came to interview to live in my apartment. He was a very nice fellow who showed up to the appointment on time and would be pleasant to work with (sometimes you can just tell), who needed a connection into the industry, and I gave him that. My old company ended up firing me and keeping him. Shrug. I am hoping karma will eventually pay me back for that kind deed. Not that life is fair, but…you might as well put more good into the world rather than bad, right?

  • Reply Savvy Working Gal January 14, 2013 at 16:46

    This is a tough one. I don’t think I have ever recommended a friend for a job, but my company almost always hires referrals. We have hired some great people over the years, but we have also hired some real duds. I think both parties have to really look at whether the job or the candidate are really a good fit. Just because they are a great person and friend doesn’t mean you will love this job and be a good fit. Also, it seems as though we pay referrals more than candidates who are not referred and our current staff. And give better benefits like extra vacation. Kind of a halo affect. Which leads to bad feelings if it gets out.

  • Reply Liquid January 14, 2013 at 20:36

    I haven’t recommended any friends to potential employers yet, but if I know someone who has the soft and hard skills needed for an open position I wouldn’t hesitate to mention them to my boss. It’s important to be careful though. You don’t want to end up being like that lawyer on TV who recommended a friend into his law firm, but it turned out that this friend was actually employed by a competing law firm and his real motive was to collect sensitive information from the company.

  • Reply Vanessa January 15, 2013 at 04:23

    I once recommended a friend for a job in my department. She worked for 3 weeks and then quit in the middle of the day, on a Wednesday, by taping an “I QUIT” sign to the boss’s door. Things were never the same between the bosses and I after that — not only were none of my recommendations for employees not taken seriously, but neither were my recommendations at work in general.

    Another person that I recommended is still there and is doing a good job but the damage from that one person has still been done

  • Reply Kara January 15, 2013 at 08:56

    I’ve only recommended someone for a position at my job once (when I worked at a grocery store), and luckily, it worked out great. I no longer work there, but he’s moved up to a lower management position, so I’m glad.
    However, I’m very apprehensive about recommending people or allowing people to name-drop my name. If they’re hired and something goes badly, it tarnished MY reputation as a good employee as well. I think you really have to know someone’s work ethic and behaviour before recommending them for a position. Working with them in the past helps a lot too. A person’s work personality and at-home personality are usually extremely different. (Mine are!)

  • Reply Untemplater January 15, 2013 at 21:00

    Yeah it can be awkward to have a friend ask for a recommendation for a job where you work. I’m always very cautious before recommending someone because even if we don’t want it to, work can be very personal. And like you said, sometimes personalities just clash.

  • Reply The Asian Pear January 16, 2013 at 07:21

    I’d recommend but only if I really think the person is apt and is a good match for the job. I wouldn’t do it because I am friends with the person. I personally try not to mix personal and business but if someone I know is truly skilled, I’d want to work with them. Or have them in the company.

  • Reply Catherine January 16, 2013 at 14:54

    One of my best friends has actually gotten my other friend pretty much all of her jobs…it worked out for the most part but got a little sticking when one became the others direct supervisor.

    I’m very careful who I vouch for when it comes to jobs. I’ve only really put my neck out there for one person and it worked out really well.

  • Reply CF January 17, 2013 at 04:34

    I’ve always kept an eye out for jobs that would suit my friends. I have had especially good luck placing people at Brian’s company actually. Their team considers me the unofficial recruiter 🙂 I’m careful to only suggest people with a good work ethic though and I coach them very carefully on what to say during the interview.

  • Reply Revanche January 19, 2013 at 12:39

    I am very happy to connect people to openings I know of, but unless I have worked with that person and personally seen a great work ethic, positive attitude, and respect for others, I won’t recommend them. There’s a big difference between the two.
    I still won’t make the recommendation unless we’ve had a frank conversation about what it means and how it could affect our friendship. I’ve been burned before by recommending someone who flaked pretty badly and my judgment was questioned for a long time afterward.
    That said, there have been a couple people I’ve recommended since then, one a personal friend and one not, and they both worked out well. The biggest difference was having that conversation.
    Friendships are important and so is my career and the two do not need to intersect if the person isn’t the right fit.

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