Hiring friends: yea or nay? Does your answer vary if you’re hiring a friend to be a colleague/equal versus hiring an assistant? We’ve talked about interviewing with friends, but not the reverse situation, hiring a friend. Reader M wonders…
I work at a small law firm. I’m pretty junior, but I have a considerable amount of input on decisions about the business. We don’t have an HR department or a formal hiring process. We’re getting pretty busy and I think it’s time to hire a new assistant to help us handle the work. A friend’s girlfriend recently moved to our city and has experience working as an assistant in a professional environment. I’m thinking of asking her if she’d be interested in the job – I know how hard it can be to find a good job in a new city and I know she’s qualified, so I’d be happy to help her and add some one likeable and competent to our staff in the process. Is it always a bad idea to hire a friend?
Interesting question, M. There are two things that concern me about this situation. First: she’s your friend’s girlfriend — not your friend. You don’t know if/how things will end between them, or how awkward it’s going to be if you have to choose sides.
The second thing is that she’ll be an assistant — and being friends with staffers can get kind of murky, particularly for women. In this situation there are two considerations here — first, if you and she are pals around the office, your superiors might start viewing you as “one of the girls,” which isn’t going to be good for your career. Second, if you know this person enough to let your hair down around her, socially, it’s going to be a bit awkward giving her assignments and acting like a boss with her. (After all, you need to be respected, not liked.) There needs to be some separation between work and life — and to me this is way too little space.
Readers, what are your thoughts — would you ever encourage a friend to apply to an administrative/secretarial position at your workplace?
Psst: we’ve talked before about using friends to network, as well as competing with friends for jobs.
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I initially thought this was referring to paying someone to be your friend, instead hiring an existing friend to work with you! LOL!
I’d pay George Clooney to be my friend . . .
I thought the same thing! I was like “is this a new thing?”
S in Chicago
Me, too! :)
A third issue to consider is that recommending her will reflect on you. You say that you know that she’s qualified, but just because someone is likeable and competent in a personal setting doesn’t mean that she’s the same way in a professional setting. After getting burned once (vouching for someone who completely blew off the interview when she got a better offer), I am extremely hesitant to go to bat for someone unless I have first hand knowledge of how they perform as a professional.
I agree with Zelda. These are VERY difficult issue’s, Kat, and I think it is ALWAYS dangerous to go out on a limm for someone especialy if they are NOT competent. So if YOU want my vote, I vote NO, even tho it is NOT popular, and this is based on MY experience.
When I was in college, my friend Linda realy wanted to get a job in NYC. She knew I came from NY (LI) and therefore said I should help her get a job. Even tho she was not that smart, she was VERY cute, so I said I would ask Dad. Dad called her and said the same thing–she was dum. I told her she was pretty so could he get her a simple job? Because I pushed and begged him, he got her a job down in the FINANCEAL district helping at a NY Stock Company. She was supposed to issue NEW stock certificate’s to people who lost there’s and others when the stock split or something like that. She was NOT up to the task at all, and spent time flirting with all the men. Finaly, she had to be fired when she was found out and admitted having sexueal relations with an old coworker in the vault! FOOEY! (She later told me she did NOT take her top off so she did NOT think it was to bad. DOUBEL FOOEY! My dad was mortified that he had recommended her to his freind, and he got mad at me for pestering him to get her work down there when she was such a ditz. So to this day, he alway’s tells me never to hire a friend, and wonders what Linda is now doeing. I think she is working in DC at a mall, but am not sure.
THIS!!!! It will reflect so badly on you if you encourage them to hire her and she does not do a good job. If I don’t know how someone would perform in the job role, I never recommend them. I may pass along their resume to a recruiting person and let them know that I think a lot of the candidate personally, but I don’t know their work. But if you have influence in the decision – which it sounds like you do – you shouldn’t vouch for this person.
Silicon valley attorney
Also, consider that even if you believe you can be impartial in your decision making, hiring or recommending someone you know might give the appearance the of an ethics conflict.
You can encourage her to apply for the position, disclose to the other people on the staff that you know her, and then recuse yourself from the selection process.
No mention that the friend’s girlfriend was looking for a job. Just because she has worked as an assistant in the past doesn’t mean she is looking for a job or looking for a job doing the same. Offering it out of the blue has impacts on the friend dynamic too in addition to the other concerns.
I could be mis-reading the question, but it almost sounds as if the assistant position has not yet been created, and the attorney who would consider hiring this woman would be suggesting both (a) opening the position and (b) hiring this woman into it. It also sounds as if she’s never worked in a law office.
If you can vouch for someone’s professional qualifications, that’s one thing, but be leery of hiring friends because they are new to town, have a hard time finding a job, etc.
You may be better off being a friend to her – showing her around the city and introducing her to new things.
Need to Improve
An interesting question for me is how to pitch your friends when they have gone in house. I have number of friends I regularly go out with who went to law school with me or are former colleagues. Now they are in-house and I want their business, but I don’t want that to be the centerpiece every time we go out. I try not to talk work all the time, and make it social, but I also am always expensing out outings, which does add an element of weirdness.
When I actually have been their outside counsel, it has been interesting to adjust to being at the beck and call of a friend, getting redlines in a brief from them, disagreeing about strategy, etc.
Anyone have his experience and want to share their stories about pitching friends for business and then working with them?
Maybe you shouldn’t be expensing outings if it’s not a business development type thing? I think keeping the boundaries on that may help with the weirdness
I think this would be a really interesting topic for a thread!
In my observation, men network and do business with friends all the time. Maybe they’re better able to compartmentalize the business and social aspects of a relationship, or they don’t mind when the two overlap. For whatever reason, women are less comfortable with this dynamic. I think this is unfortunate.
On a different note, how to handle when you’ve been promoted and now are no longer the same level as your work friends? I don’t think it is as big of a deal in my small non law firm office but I’m curious what others think.
This is the worst! I was shunned by my peers after my first promotion. I was purposely excluded from lunch plans/after work plans/all conversation. My skin got thick pretty quickly. After the 2nd promotion, it wasn’t so bad. After the 3rd promotion, all those peers now reported to me and had a lot of a** to kiss! The experience was very isolating. I was able to build new work friendships, but since that experience, I keep those friendships at a distance.
My boss hired a friend about 18 months ago, and it has been disastrous. Although he was accomplished in his old field, he is underqualified for his current position, and all attempts to talk to my boss about his need for additional training and support (which he acknowledges!) have failed. She now sees him as a victim of “team dynamics” and is forcing us all through various B-school maneuvers to try to move from “storming” to “norming”. It’s created so much resentment and bitterness that several of us have started looking elsewhere. She has such a blind spot to his weaknesses that various colleagues have wondered if they are having an affair. I honestly don’t think that’s the case, but it undermines credibility for both of them. The whole thing has been an extremely valuable (albeit painful) lesson in why you should never ever hire a friend.
Am I the only one that feels that Kat is being rather condescending in her comment regarding that this person would be an assistant – a “staffer” – as if this is some sort of dirty word and something of which to be ashamed/somehow below the OP? Am I reading too much into this? Idk…I am in a fairly senior position but I don’t look down on my assistant or any other assistant at the company. They are incredibly invaluable.
Ugh yeah “one of the girls” – what era are we talking here 1950? I agree it’s good to maintain a bit of distance from direct reports but surely that stands regardless of whether this person is a “staffer” or attorney.