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WARNING: Hiring Friends You Know Doesn’t Always Work

The two biggest barriers to good decision making are your ego and blind spots”

-Ray Dailo, Author of Principles

Hiring the right people to fill a position is a difficult enough job, but when you blur the lines by having someone you know in your search process, your blind spots can increase.

In a discussion with a client last month, she revealed she had made a mistake by hiring her friend for a job. Long story short – the friend was not very qualified for the position and my client regretted her decision almost immediately.

When I asked my client what she had missed, she sighed and simply said that she had her blinders on and she let her ego get the best of her. I asked her to tell me more.

My client stated that she and her friend/new hire had gone to grad school together, were friends, but had never worked together before. They often talked about the trials and tribulations of women leadership over the years, and that really helped them strengthen their bond.

My client’s friend/new hire had been going through an awful job experience for over a year, so my client encouraged her to apply for a Director position that had just come open. The friend/new hire was delighted that my client would think of her for the position and quickly applied.

Ok, so let’s peel the layers of this story back a little bit more…

My client’s position was a Director for Admissions, but her friend/new hire’s background was in Residence Housing. The friend/new hire had little direct experience with Admissions except in working with Admissions, serving on committees to ensure that students had housing when they applied to the campus.

I know, it seems crazy that my client would possibly think her friend would be qualified for a job she had NO EXPERIENCE in. But don’t most of us have stories like this, when we just assume that a person can do the job because of how they have presented themselves to us, even though they don’t have the demonstrated work experience?

Get Thee Behind Me, Ego

Yes, I am comparing the human ego to Satan because let’s face it, sometimes our egos do some very bad things. How often do we allow our ego to get in the way of sound decision making, even when others tell us that the candidate is not the right one? Our ego tells us that we can support this person and we see something in the person that others don’t.

Eventually, we must admit we made a mistake. But this puts us and our friend/new hire in an impossibly awkward position. How do you face the fallout and tell your friend and your staff that you made a BIG mistake? There is an impact either way.

If you don’t remove your friend, they will continue to struggle, endure stress and continue to chip away at your reputation as a leader, and, worst of all, fail to meet the needs of the staff. In the end, your ego has allowed you to make a bad decision that has jeopardized your staff and hampered their ability to provide students with high-level services.

The moral of the story? Hire the candidate who is a value add!

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