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Why You Shouldn’t Be So Quick To Refer A Friend For A Job

Since childhood, my calling has been helping people. From writing papers to connecting with mentors, I was always there to share my knowledge and lend a hand. It came as no surprise that my “white hat syndrome” would lead me to a career in human resources. When I became a recruiter, I crossed paths with many hopeful job seekers looking for employment opportunities. The day came when I found myself offering career advice to a lifelong friend. What seemed like a perfectly great opportunity to help a friend out, turned into a nightmare. Hindsight is always 20/20, right? Stay tuned, and I’ll provide the perfect example of how sticking your neck out for someone can go wrong and why you shouldn’t be so quick to refer your friends for job openings.

My friend was desperate to find a job after being laid off from a community daycare. We’d grown up together, so I knew the good, the bad and the ugly…or so I thought. Being the career savior that I am, I rushed to connect with a hiring manager at my job who could easily be the answer to my girl’s job search woes. After all, she’d been working longer than I had and was more than capable of rocking it out in a brand new customer service role. We didn’t grow up in the best of neighborhoods and always felt that if one of us “made it,” we would stop at nothing to have each other’s back. Little did I know, this line of thinking would haunt me later on in the most embarrassing way.

As promised I put in the word to the hiring manager about my friend. He was excited to interview her, and likewise, she was over the moon for the opportunity. Following the interview, they both reported back to me, and we traded stories about how it was a match made in heaven. My friend started work, and I continued plugging away at my full load of job orders in the recruiting department. Over the next few months, I periodically checked in on my hire to make sure the deal was solid. The kudos kept rolling in, and I could finally relax. Before I closed the book on my success story, I received a call from the hiring manager. There was a BIG problem. I’d heard about a termination in my morning team meeting, but surely it wasn’t my girl, right? Boy, was I wrong. My girl was fired for blocking a coworker’s vehicle in the parking deck and attempting to settle a score. At this moment, I’d lost all credibility and all anyone focused on was that I was the person who referred her for the job.

Needless to say, this was my last time referring a friend — or anyone for that matter — for a position opening. Her work performance certainly had nothing to do with mine, but for the remainder of my time with this company, I was remembered as the recruiter with the hotheaded friend. I’ve never been so humiliated and angry in my life. Most people will agree that you probably shouldn’t mix your business and personal life, but this was my friend. I’d had several successful referrals before her so it never crossed my mind that something like this would happen. From this day forward, I vowed never to refer a friend for a job again. Here are some things you must consider before you refer a friend for a job:

  1. Even if you’re the best of friends, be sure you truly understand her professionalism. Find out about her attendance, loyalty and competencies before you add your stamp of approval.

  2. Do you know her as well as you think you do? The last thing you need is for her to fail a background check or a drug test.

  3. Do you trust that she wouldn’t put you in an unfavorable position? Is your friendship valuable enough for her to think twice about dragging your name through the mud? As soon as she slips up, you’ll be getting the side eye from coworkers.

  4. How will it affect your work reputation if this job doesn’t work out for your friend? Many believe birds of a feather flock together, so think about ways an employment mishap can come back to bite you.

  5. Is there another way I can help my friend get a job without being a direct referral? Maybe you should share some tips on improving her interviewing, resume writing or networking skills. Try giving her a heads up about an industry-specific career fair instead.

Referring a friend may seem like a good idea at first, but if something goes wrong your job and your friendship could be in jeopardy. I learned my referral lesson the hard way. Today, I’m still in the business of helping people land their dream jobs, but I find peace in knowing that I have more control over my brand. Whether you decide to stick your neck out or not, take some time and really think things through.

Have you ever referred a friend and regretted it? We want to hear from you!

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Originally posted on

Ashley Watkins, Career Coach and Nationally Certified Resume Writer with Write Step Resumes, LLC, offers high-quality career documents and services to job seekers and career changers that generate more interviews and higher salary offers. She can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or via Click here to schedule a FREE consult today!

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