What are the risks of recommending a friend for your workplace?

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Question: “I’m about to put a friend of mine forward as a job candidate with my firm, but despite my confidence in her, I wonder if the downside of recommending someone I know is too great. Sometimes people don’t work out, and this could reflect on me. Am I being selfish, or am I justified in hesitating to commit myself to her cause?” – Jen, Email Marketing Representative

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Lin November 21, 2012 at 10:30 am

I base any recommendation (family/friend/acquaintance) on basic facts. I will state in an e-mail or letter that yes, I know the person and that I am aware of their application for the position. I also state that my intent is to bring the person’s name to their attention among all the candidates they are currently reviewing. If I have worked with the person and/or have a firsthand knowledge (and confidence) in their work ethic and feel the position would be a good fit for both I will say so. I always end the message once again stating that my intent is for them to have a chance to review the application and interview a person I feel would be a great addition to their team, no more. I do agree who they hire is their responsibility, but also hope that this will bring the name forward without a commitment on my part or theirs to make any exceptions or be held accountable for future actions.

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Tara November 12, 2012 at 11:35 am

I think this is another situation that depends on the culture of your company/local office. I’ve worked with a group in the past where people kept track of who referred/hired specific people, and it was definitely viewed as a reflection on you personally. If someone didn’t work out there were comments such as “Well, that was so-and-so’s referral /hire…” as if that explained everything. Not surprisingly, it was a pretty negative environment in general.
On the other hand, I had a position where the no one viewed it as a reflection on the person that recommended a new hire, but unfortunately some recommended friends with apparently no consideration of the person’s work ethic or if they would be a good fit for the position at all. I attributed this to the referral bonus program. It seemed to encourage some to refer any and everyone just to see if they would get the check… like entries in a raffle or something. Not the best approach either. Maybe it should reflect a little, if someone has a habit of recommending unsuitable applicants that never seem to work out…
In the end I agree with previous comments that in the end it’s up to the hiring manager to assess the applicant… but you really never know until you see them on the job. Some people talk a good game in the interview but don’t walk the walk. Personally, if I haven’t worked with them before I can’t speak to their work ethic and soft skills. So I’m happy to submit a resume for someone, but I make it clear if they are a friend, not a former coworker.

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Barbara November 9, 2012 at 12:34 pm

I have a friend I had worked with in a volunteer capacity. Several times we were both volunteers and several times I was employed and she volunteered at my workplace.

When a job was open at my office, I recommeded her and she was hired. We car pooled to and from work. We sat next to each other all day. She is an outstanding worker and I’ve learned a lot from her.

You really need to know the person if you are going to work with them and recommend them for a position.

I’d recommend and work with my friend again, anytime.

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Anne F. November 9, 2012 at 8:49 am

It’s always a fine line that is walked when hiring anyone, whether it be a friend or not. Sometimes people interview with an A+ grade, and then do not work out. I know it is very enticing to be able to recommend a friend, especially someone you feel you know very well. But a friend is usually someone you do not interact with in the workplace and therefore as much as you would like to think this person would work out well, many times it just doesn’t happen that way. I, personally, would be cautious in doing this.

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Mark November 8, 2012 at 6:26 pm

I’ve recommended around ten or so people that we hired. Most worked out really well, one didn’t. But for all of them, I give a 100% honest appraisal to the person doing the hiring. If they are really dependable with me regarding doing what they say they will do, but I find them lying periodically, I’ll tell that to the person hiring. If they are the most honest person I’ve ever known, but they are always late, I’ll pass that on so they can address punctuality with the applicant/friend. I think if you give the good AND the bad, not only does it help the person make a better hiring decision, but if things don’t work out because of an aspect you forewarned them about, at least you can say, “I said ahead of time that this might be an issue.”

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Mia November 8, 2012 at 5:48 pm

I am very careful when it comes to recommending people. I recently recommended a friend and that turned out beautifuly for both of us. I still get thanks for recommending her but I knew her character and work ethics so I was not worried. There were others however, I was not so sure about so I let them know about the postion because I still wanted to help, but I did not offer a recommendation nor did they ask. Remember it is not always “What” you know but “Who” you know nowadays. I would want someone to do the same for me should that time come…..

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L November 8, 2012 at 5:27 pm

I made that mistake a couple of years ago and still regret it. The person did not work out and I still carry the burden of it reflecting bad on me since I’m the one who recommended her. Never again!

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Susan November 8, 2012 at 5:26 pm

I’ve recommended plenty of people for jobs where I used to work. Some are still there doing a great job, others have left, and others were *gulp* fired because their performance was below standard.
When my friend was fired I apologized to the director for recommending him because I had no idea what his work ethic was. She said it’s not my fault he didn’t perform. I only recommended him. It was up to him to keep the job.
So I still recommend friends. If they are out of work, it’s worth a try to help them.

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Mere November 8, 2012 at 5:11 pm

My first thought was is this a position that has been advertised and is going to be filled by someone? If so, then it I think it would be fine to put a friend up for the position as there should be HR and hiring managers who will determine if she will be a good fit. If this is not for an open position, then I might be a little more cautious. You could promote the things about her that make her a good friend and indicate that you are of the opinion that she will be a good worker and a good fit but note that you have not actually worked in a professional capacity with her. In that way you are helping your friend but also being honest with your company.

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Michelle November 8, 2012 at 5:02 pm

If a job is available in my company and I know someone who is looking for a job I simply let them know where to find the job posting. I find this different than giving a reference for someone. Just because I’m sharing the news of an open position doesn’t mean I’m “recommending” them for that job.

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Olivia November 8, 2012 at 4:31 pm

That’s a good comment, Kim, and I echo your thoughts. Afterall, we’re adults therefore responsible for our own behavior. What could it hurt? How could you be held responsible for someone else’s behavior whether good or bad? I assume your company has hiring managers who are trained to select the right person for the job, right! So, relax and know that you’ve done something really good for a friend in these tough times we’re in.

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Kris M November 8, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Unless you are 101% sure that your friend has good work habits, stay away from this! They say you never know a person until you have lived with them…

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Vickie November 8, 2012 at 4:22 pm

I never recommend anyone for jobs because what if they do not work out. I do not want their problems to reflect on me as a person. Yes if things work out, you would be considered a genius for recommending an asset to the company. On the other hand, if the person does not mesh with their boss or the department, then it may draw unrelated comparisons to me and my personal judgement.

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Kim Brown November 8, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Good question. If you thought enough of your friend initially to recommend him/her then why do you have reservations now? What are your afraid of? What if the friend turns out to do an outstanding job; the company shines. Stop being afraid and go with your instincts.

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