It was bound to happen at some time or another. You have been approached by your friend seeking to fill an open position at the company you work with. At first glance, it does not seem like too big of a deal. As a human resources professional, you have the power to hire new employees, making hiring your friend simple enough. But is it really that simple? It is a hot-button topic that has been discussed for as long as businesses have been around — and the question still remains: is hiring a friend too risky?
When I was working as a recruiter for a human services agency several years back, I was approached by every single friend – and surprisingly, former classmates – for a job. While I love my friends, and they are a hoot for Thursday game night, my biggest fear was hiring someone with my name behind them. If they succeeded? Great! It was a confirmation of and testament to my phenomenal people skills. If they failed, well…that was a huge hit for the kind of reputation I built up in my role as not only a recruiter but in my company as well.
There are many perspectives on the topic with answers backed by many advantages of hiring a friend and other answers backed by many disadvantages of hiring a friend. But before getting into the meat of the subject, it is important to look at your own position at the company and how it would relate to hiring a friend.
As a human resources professional your job most likely entails duties related to hiring and/or firing, performance reviews, benefits, general employee and management communications, compliance with labor and employment laws, employee development and any employee-related documentation and paperwork. Simply put, if you hire a friend your job requires you to be closely involved with them and what they do at your company, as well as all the other employees under your care.
First, let us look at the pros that come with hiring a friend. An article from Business Know-How highlights the fact that hiring a friend does make the hiring process easier. You most likely already know your friend’s qualifications and history, which can help in confirming a background check or qualifications written on a resume.
In addition, you are probably privy to their work ethic and reliability based on your relationship outside of a working one. If not, there is a good chance you know your friend’s references, making it easy to communicate with them in regards to the position and how your friend may or may not fit. And what usually ends up the most sought after reason to hire a friend, is the simple fact you will get to work together. Having someone you can talk to or get lunch with on a daily basis while at work can make for a more tolerable work situation. This also means you can have a friend to attend work-related activities with, which can aid in overall relationships around the company.
But as is the case with advantages, there are always disadvantages — especially when being a human resources professional and hiring a friend. While actual business advantages exist in hiring a friend, the biggest disadvantage still basically stems from the friendship that exists prior to you hiring a friend.
The Society for Human Resource Management explained it well by saying, “…friendships increase engagement and stakeholder buy-in, but you’re also aware that if employees think you’re too close to ‘select’ people, you — and the HR department — may no longer be viewed as impartial, fair and trustworthy.”
This is an important point to make because it highlights the fact that you do not need to actually be favoring someone for other employees to believe favoritism is at play. Right out of the gate, your friend you choose to hire might already fall under scrutiny with the idea that they only obtained the job because of your friendship. That sentiment will be lingering for as long as you and your friend work together, which can make for a difficult workplace dynamic.
Furthermore, the friendship you and your friend have will definitely play into your one-one-one work relationship. Take for example a performance review you might have to do on your friend. Not only will the pressure to only say good things about your friend exist, but if your friend is doing poorly you most likely do not want to be the one to have to tell them.
It is hard enough telling a regular coworker they need to do a better job. But taking a friend and telling them their job performance is less than satisfactory is an even more difficult predicament. You risk damaging the personal relationship you two share, even if you have done your best to keep it professional.
Even worse, if you have the added responsibility of firing employees at your company, you might have to fire your friend if they are deemed not able to keep up with the demands of the job. Firing a friend not only permanently severs the co-worker relationship but also your personal relationship. An even greater toll could be in the works if your friend feels they were wrongfully terminated and chooses to pursue legal action against the company. Now your whole company is at stake.
When it comes down it, hiring a friend can be focused on two critical variables: your friend and the company environment. If you have an emotionally close relationship with your friend then, be prepared for other employees to see your in-work relationship as favoritism. If your friend was more of an acquaintance then it might be a better fit because you have supplied a new hire that is familiar and trustworthy without the added risk of emotional ties.
When it comes to the company itself, it is important to look at its organizational structure. Is it a small, tight-knit and highly controlled environment? If so, any perception of favoritism on your part could be detrimental to the company and its goals.
One final aspect of hiring a friend that can actually end up an advantage or a disadvantage is how they reflect on you and your competence. If you hire a friend that ends up being a great asset to the company then you will receive praise for your decision to hire. If your friend turns out to be less than adequate as an employee, it will reflect poorly on you and your decision to hire them.
As mentioned earlier, there really is not a definitive answer as to whether or not it is too risky to hire a friend. As a human resources professional it is your job to treat each potential hire the same way while keeping your company’s ideals and aspirations a priority. If you weigh the advantages and disadvantages and feel hiring your friend is a worthwhile move, then take the risk.