Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Job Search / Networking

3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Recommending a Friend—No Matter How High the Referral Bonus

You want to help your friends. You want to support them so much, in fact, that you’re willing to throw their name into the ring for a job opening you saw posted.

That’s great! But, if you’ve never done this before, be warned that it usually goes one of two ways. Either your friend gets the gig and lives up to everything you said to the hiring manager—plus some!—or, she’s a complete nightmare to work with and your professional reputation takes a hit. (I’ve personally referred a number of friends and have seen both ends of the spectrum.)

So, should you or shouldn’t you point your friends in the direction of positions you hear about? It’s not an easy yes or no, but here are a couple of things to consider before submitting any names.

1. What’s Your Relationship With This Employer?

Did you hear about this opening through a friend of a friend of a Facebook status? If so, it’s not a huge deal to refer someone for the position. Yes, you should still give it thought, but really, you’re doing the person who posted the opening a favor by passing along a name. Because this person doesn’t know you very well, he or she should do his or her due diligence looking into the candidate’s qualifications.

However, if you’re recommending someone to a company you have close ties to, to a professional contact you know well, or to your own employer, definitely view your pal through the lens of a hiring manager. Yes, your friend’s a hard worker (from what you can tell), and yes, she’s the nicest—but can you personally vouch for her skill set in relation to this position?

Your professional reputation’s on the line any time you refer someone, and based on how well this person does, it could either bolster your image or weaken it.

2. What’s Your Relationship With This Friend?

If you’re going to put your professional reputation on the line, it’s a good idea to consider who you’re doing it for. The better your friendship, the more it makes sense to stick your neck out for him or her.

While it’s good karma to help someone out who’s looking for a job—take a trip down Worst Case Scenario lane for moment. If this person completely bombs, do you want to take responsibility for an acquaintance you met a few times at a networking event? Or, not even that, do you want to be the middleman in this process for someone you’re not that close with (“Have you heard anything yet? Do you know when they’re making a decision?”).

Now, ask yourself those same questions for a very good friend. How will this process (and the possible job bombing) affect your relationship?

3. How Much Do You Know About Your Friend’s Work Habits?

From my experience with a friend who just didn’t cut it after I referred him, I learned that it’s important not to just take your friend’s word for it that he’s the best guy for the job. Do your research, ask him for relevant links and documents, make sure his resume matches up with what he’s telling you, and check to make sure his social media links are professional.

In the case of the person who was a terrible referral, I knew he was a solid writer—but I had no idea about his awful time management habits. Had I taken some time to really talk to him about his process (and asked a few mutual connections for casual references), I would’ve saved myself the embarrassment of getting that “So, the friend you referred never turns anything in on time…” email from an editor I really admired.

The main takeaway: Don’t recommend someone if you have absolutely no idea about his or her work ethic. He or she could be the greatest brunch buddy in the world, but that doesn’t mean that person’s a good fit for a particular company.

Real talk: No friend is worth potentially screwing up your own professional relationships. I know it can feel bad to tell someone you care about that you won’t go out on a limb for her, but you’ll feel even worse if you put yourself in a situation where you’re playing defense—and your friend’s feeling like she’s not a good fit.

Photo of woman contemplating courtesy of Shutterstock.

A logo with "the muse" in white text.