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Insights: How to Approach a Hiring Manager Who is a Friend?

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Question

Submitted by: WISE NYC member | 15+ years professional experience

What’s the best way to approach a hiring manager when s/he is a friend or acquaintance? There are two scenarios, one where I will report to my friend and one where my friend will report to me. While I think we are both professional enough to keep our business and personal relationships separate, how can I ensure that it doesn’t become awkward or that it doesn’t negatively impact our relationship? Any suggestions on how to reach out or frame the conversation?

Answer

This is a tricky situation. While you believe you will be able to separate work from friendship, before you make the call, ask yourself how you would feel if your friend had to discipline you or fire you for performance (or other reasons), or vice versa? This is why I will always say it's better to avoid moving into a job where you report to a friend (and a real friend, not a work friend — there is a difference) or they report to you.

If you still want to reach out to them because the opportunity is appealing, then you should treat it like any other networking opportunity. Have clear questions about the job, outcomes required and the application process. Depending on your friendship, I don't see much value in asking about the impact on friendship initially because you want to position yourself in their eyes as the right person for the role; that conversation could come once the interview process starts. If you put the friendship piece up front, it could make them dwell on that too early in the process and eliminate you from contention.

Jane Hollman

About Jane Hollman

Jane Hollman has more than 25 years experience in senior human resources roles at large multinationals and sports across Asia Pacific and the United States. Currently a career coach, she helps business leaders and university students think through their career paths. Hollman is passionate about creating flexible, innovative work places and mentors women looking to start their own businesses. She is also a freelance writer covering the business of sports for publications such as Women Talking Sports.

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