The Many Ways Recommending Your Best Friend to Your Employer Can Backfire

If your buddy is a loser, your boss will blame you. If your buddy is a star, you won't look so bright in comparison.

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By John Boitnott


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Your business has an opening and your best friend would be the perfect fit. You imagine referring this friend and finding that everyone immediately agrees with your prediction. Your friend accepts the position and does a great job, plus you now have someone to go to lunch with and swap work horror stories with after hours.

But before you make that referral, you should stop and consider the many things that could happen as a result. Even if your employer encourages referrals, recommending a friend could damage your friendship, your employer's trust, or your career with your current company. Here are a few reasons you might end up regretting the decision to refer a friend.

The friend won't get the job.

When an employee makes a recommendation, an employer usually agrees to interview the referral. The decision is based on the results of that interview. Your employer could opt not to hire your friend, so it's important to consider the ramifications of that on your friendship. Will the friend be bitter or embarrassed about not having been chosen?

The friend's background check won't pan out.

If someone makes it through the interview process, most employers conduct at least a minimal background check. This can include contacting former employers, checking for a criminal record, and requiring a drug screening. Your friend could fail some part of this, leading to embarrassment for you and a potential rift in your friendship.

Related: How to Avoid Getting Burned When Hiring Friends

The friend is unreliable.

You often don't really get to know your friends until you've worked alongside them. Your friend could be the type who shows up for work late each day or disregards deadlines. As your employer grows more frustrated, you'll be remembered as the person who referred this unreliable worker.

The friend won't do a good job.

That friend who seemed like such a great fit when you learned about the job opening might not be the right fit, after all. As a result, your employer could be put in the difficult position of letting this new hire go. This could easily create an awkward situation for everyone involved.

The friend will do a great job.

Instead of disappointing your boss, your friend could be the best thing to happen to your business since its formation. Can you handle watching your friend ascend the career ladder while you remain in place?

Related: Advice From 9 Entrepreneurs Who Made Partnering or Hiring Friends Work

Your friendship could cause problems

Once coworkers learn that your friendship with the new employee began before that employee's first day, those coworkers could resent the fact that two friends are allowed to work closely together. This is especially true if you're in a position where you can somehow show favoritism to your friend. Be prepared for your friendship to undergo scrutiny from others if your friend will be working on the same team as you do.

You won't work well together.

You may have some great memories as friends, but when you try to work together, you could find you and your friend don't connect. It could be that your work styles are incompatible or maybe you learn your friend stubbornly refuses to listen to other points of view. Whatever the case, if you're the one who referred your friend, you may find it difficult to complain to your supervisors about the issues you're having.

Related: How to Hire Friends Without Destroying Relationships

The referral could hurt your reputation.

If you rely on your job, the biggest danger of referring a friend is harm to your hard-earned reputation. When you recommend someone to your superiors, you're putting your own personal judgment on the line. If, for whatever reason, the referral turns out to be a big disappointment, your business's leaders, as well as your coworkers, may lose trust in your judgment moving forward.

Referring a friend for an open position at your company may seem like a great idea initially. Your friend will have a great opportunity and your employer could find the perfect person for the position. But it's important to consider the consequences of referring a close friend before taking the first steps.

John Boitnott

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Journalist, Digital Media Consultant and Investor

John Boitnott is a longtime digital media consultant and journalist living in San Francisco. He's written for Venturebeat, USA Today and FastCompany.

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