Ah, good old the job referral. These days, it seems like it's the only way a candidate can land an offer from a dream company. Therefore, the number of times a friend, family friend or old colleague has emailed you to ask for a reference to work at your current company has increased over the years. You know the email…it reads something like:
“Hi Old Friend, Hope all is well. I saw that you’re currently working at XYZ company. How do you like it? I was scrolling their job listings and saw a role that I’m perfect for. Can I send over my resume for you to submit me as a referral candidate?”
In all likelihood, you’re glad to hear from your friend and always happy to be a professional support. Then there’s the financial incentive many companies offer current employees who refer top notch candidates. However, should you blindly or frequently refer friends to work at your current company, or even your former employer?
Jamie Hichens, Senior Talent Acquisition Partner at Glassdoor, says “Not so fast.”
“Unless you've seen your friend in a professional setting first hand, it can be risky,” says Hichens.
Before recommending your college buddy for a gig, here are 10 things you should ask yourself first. Trust us, it could save you from a broken friendship or HR whispers down the line.
1. Have you had a conversation with him/her about the opportunity?
While you may have been approached by your friend via email about the role, take time to hop on a call with him or her to get a sense for their interest and to reconnect. Blindly recommending an old friend who you may not really know could backfire for the company and for the candidate. When it comes to referrals, you must remember that HR considers current employees the first line of defense, so to speak, and they value your real opinion, so make sure you actually have one by taking 15 minutes to talk with your friend. “The consequences are that it could not only affect your friendship for the worse but it could potentially damage your credibility at work if your friend turns out to not be a good fit for the position and company,” warns Hichens.
2. Would he/she actually be a good fit for the role?
You should only recommend a friend for a role at your company if you are confident that their skills or passions are in line with the job description. Take a moment to actually read the job description or talk to the hiring manager so that you, as the reference, have a good understanding of what the team is looking for and can evaluate your friend properly. “If [you] truly know your friend is going to bring their A-game to the role and if the two of you have had an honest conversation about what this could potentially do to your friendship if it ended up not being a fit, then you should refer them.”
3. Do his/her goals align with the team or company goals?
Every company has a mission statement and a set of values or goals that they are striving towards. Does your friend embody or appreciate those? For example, if the company is a dog-eat-dog environment that would put the Wolf of Wall Street to shame, make sure the candidate has the same tenacity and grit. On the other hand, if the role requires a sensitive collaborator who is slow to act, a Type-A bulldog might not make the best referral. Hichens cautions, “If you are not 100% sure your friend is well aligned with the company and role, you should think twice.”
4. How well do you know him/her?
While you do not need to be life-long pals to refer someone to a position at work, you should evaluate how well you know the person. Have you seen them in work environments? Do you know their work ethic? Would you feel comfortable having a candid conversation with them? Be sure that you can actually vouch for this friend in a professional setting.
5. Why is he/she leaving his/her current job?
When you speak to your friend in person or via phone, don’t hesitate to get the skinny on why they are leaving their current job. They should be 100% honest with you about whether they were terminated, laid-off, quitting because of a toxic work environment or simply looking for a new opportunity. Again, you want to have all the facts (or as many as possible) when putting your reputation on the line to recommend someone.
6. How would this referral affect my credibility at work?
As in everything you do, you want your name and professional reputation to reflect hard work, honesty, strength and confidence. This goes for those you endorse. Sure, you want to be supportive of those around you and offer a leg up where you can, but remember that the decisions you make in the workplace speak to your credibility too.
7. How will this referral affect your friendship?
“I've seen friendships end but have also seen friendships flourish through referrals,” says Hichens. Take stock of your friendship and whether or not it can handle the ups and downs that being colleagues can bring. For instance, perhaps you value the confidence you share with a friend, being able to gossip, enjoy a beer, cry, and laugh. Once you become coworkers, that might be tarnished in the uncharted territory of office politics and unconscious competition.
8. Have you referred other friends to work at this company?
Many companies offer incentives to employees for referring top talent like engineers or women of color, however, you should not abuse the perk by referring everyone of your Facebook friends. “It is a helpful tactic because our employees know what type of person would thrive at Glassdoor, so we get some fantastic referrals,” says Hichens. “And our employees sell working at Glassdoor to their friends so by the time the referral gets to the recruiting team, they are already extremely excited about working with us. It's a win-win. However, the downside of a referral program is that sometimes employees just want the referral bonus money and might just refer anyone, whether they are qualified or not. That ends up being more of a headache than a help.”
9. If needed, could you see yourself working directly with this person?
You may find it’s easy to refer a pal to a role in a different department, but with corporate restructuring, it’s very possible you may need to team up with your friend. How does that sound? If you cringe ever so slightly at the possibility of seeing this person in the company cafeteria daily or them sharing stories of you from high school in a meeting, think twice about agreeing to refer them. Take a less enthusiastic route by perhaps connecting them with the hiring manager via email or simply discussing the opportunity via phone without giving your full stamp of approval.
10. What would happen to the friendship or relationship if the gig doesn’t work out?
If by chance your friend does not get the job, will your friendship end or be jeopardized? It is a tough blow for a candidate to feel like they have the inside track on a job because a friend works there only to be rejected by the hiring manager. Hichens insists that knowing how a friendship will fare no matter the job outcome is an important aspect to consider before getting a candidate excited about all the perks and benefits at a company. Remember, just because you refer a friend does not guarantee they will receive an offer.