Your friend is looking for a job, and you find out that your employer is hiring. Of course, you want to support your friend, and you would be delighted if she got a job at your workplace. If it happened, you could have lunch together, dish about co-workers, and help each other problem-solve.
Once you’ve sent your friend the job description, you might feel like you’ve done everything you can do. After all, you connected them with a job you believe they can do. Isn’t it up to them now to come through?
I have been on all sides of this scenario. I’ve been the working friend as well as the job-seeker, and I’ve been the hiring manager. Now, as a coach, I work with people who are in job transition situations who are encountering the realities of today’s job search. I am happy to share with you the wisdom I have collected about how to most effectively support a friend who is seeking a job.
Three things you should know before you start this process:
First, if you have a friend who is looking for work, it’s likely they need your help. The job-transition process is usually stressful, hard work, and frequently there’s no feedback at all. Computers often make the first selection based on keyword usage and specific yes/no criteria, and a human being never even sees the application. This is discouraging for the applicant, and it only gets worse the longer the job-hunt goes on.
Second, you have the power to make a difference. Simply by offering a word of recommendation and a sense of connection between your employer and your friend, both can feel like the other is less of a mystery. Hiring managers can be grateful for your help, too. The current process can be as dissatisfying for the employer as it is for the applicant.
Finally, respectful vulnerability is the name of the game. Have courage and do what you can (outlined below), but let go of outcomes. This is challenging but important. You can’t control the hiring manager’s decision, and forcefulness will backfire. However, persistence can pay off if it is combined with respect for the hiring manager’s process and the incredible workload they are managing during the hiring process.
Before you know about a job posting
The best time to start supporting your friend is before either of you know anything about a job opening with your employer. During this time you can support your friend in these ways:
- Share honestly about your company’s culture, products, and job functions. Don’t betray any trade secrets or your employer’s confidentiality expectations, but be as straightforward as you can without sugarcoating or exaggerating. Provide facts and resources.
- Introduce your friend to people in your company who are doing the kind(s) of work your friend wants to do. This means understanding your friend’s professional interests and strengths as well as how those might fit into your company’s strategic needs.
When you identify the right person, do an email introduction by sending your colleague a note and copying your friend. It’s a good idea to agree first with your friend on the content of this note, which might say something along the lines of, “Dear Arianna–I wanted to introduce you to my friend Lisa. She is interested in the work you do and would like to learn more. If you’d be willing to meet for coffee, I think you’d really enjoy hearing about her background in advertising. She always tells me the most fascinating stories about those days!”
This kind of introduction not only asks your colleague to tell your friend about the job, but also offers your colleague an idea for interesting conversation that your friend can contribute.
- Help your friend identify their best possible ‘fit’ and path. If there is one department or team in your company where it seems like your friend would fit best, make that team your number one target. Create opportunities for your friend to connect informally with the people in that team. (Does the company host an annual picnic or weekly after-work visit to the pub? Bring your friend along if guests are allowed.)
Find out from people who work in that team what their path was like into it. Were they hired via a business-school job fair? Promoted from a lower paid role within the company? Snagged from a contracting or temp company? What would it take for your friend to follow a similar path?
These activities will arm your friend with information about the company that will make it much easier for her to market herself well, and those introductions will help your colleagues feel like they already know her. A job candidate who is known and liked on an informal basis has an advantage when the formal job opportunities come around.
When a job is posted
- Communicate clearly and respectfully within your company’s structure. Do forward the job posting to your friend, but also mention to your own manager that you are doing so, and if the hiring manager is someone different (and someone you can reach out to directly in your company’s culture), give them a heads up as well. Send a simple note that says something like, “I wanted to let you know about a friend of mine who I think would be a great fit for that role. I’m sending her the job description. Her name is Lisa Adams.”
- Continue communicating respectfully–stay in the game. Ask your friend to let you know when she has submitted her application, and then ask her to send you a copy of her resume and cover letter. Forward these directly to the hiring manager (or at least your own manager, if your company is sensitive to hierarchy and politics).
Your email with these two documents attached might read, “Hi! As I mentioned, I sent my friend Lisa the description for your ______ job. She submitted the application via the website last night but I am forwarding her resume and cover letter to you directly. I’ve heard horror stories about how resumes look sometimes when they go through those web systems.” (This is true–back when I was a hiring manager, I couldn’t believe how mangled the resumes often looked. I often wondered if this was a reflection on a clueless applicant or if the computer somehow had ruined it. I’ve since learned that the computers don’t read resumes well, and PDFs do not always retain their formatting.)
- Follow up with the hiring manager. If your company culture allows for you to communicate directly with the hiring manager, allow a week to pass first (that’s important!) and then send a note to offer a recommendation and ask if the hiring manager has everything she needs to make a decision.
This follow-up note might read: “Hi! I sent you a note last week about my friend Lisa’s application for the ______ role. Did you receive that and her application okay? Do you have what you need to make a decision? I wanted to let you know how wonderful I think Lisa would be for The Company. I have worked with her before and found her so supportive and tireless! We’ve been eager to work together again, and I know you would be grateful if you got to know her.” Keep your comments enthusiastic, honest, relevant, and brief.
- If you don’t hear anything back, keep in mind that the hiring process is hard work, frequently lengthy, and is something the hiring manager is having to do now in addition to their own job and making up for the absence of someone in the role being hired for. They are busy. Do not hound them. Keep breathing. It’s good to follow up, but never reach out more than once a week.
If you want to ask them to respond to you, your messages to them could say, “I would love if you could drop me a note to let me know where things stand, but I know how busy you must be. If I haven’t heard from you by this time next week, I’ll send you another note.” (Adapt this same message for voicemail or even in-person connections.)
This gives them the option of knowing you will follow up so they don’t have to remember to do this, and yet also tells them you won’t go away until they have responded. (They might not understand this last part until you’ve left a similar message a few times–never less than a full week apart.)
If you don’t know your friend that well…
Suppose someone you’ve met a few times asks you to help by “putting in a good word.” If you don’t know them very well, you might feel awkward about acting on this request. However, you can still offer the best word you can. I have written notes for colleagues like this:
“Hi, Paul! I hope you’re doing well and not too swamped by the hiring process. Listen, I know one of your applicants, a guy named Bill McDavies. We’ve gotten to know each other volunteering through a local nonprofit. I can’t say I know him very well, but we’ve bagged groceries together and I always thought he was courteous and hard-working. Could you make sure you get hold of his application even if it wasn’t selected for you by the computer? I have the impression he would do well in an interview. Thanks. I hope we can get together soon!”
“Hi, David. I noticed you are hiring for a new IT specialist to support the HR function in the library system. I’ve been getting to know a woman named Hannah through a community project, and she seems like a really bright, kind person. From what I know about your department’s culture I think she would be a great fit. I’ve suggested she apply. Would you look out for her application? I know you’ll make the decision you need to make but I would love if you could just read her stuff in a bit more detail than you might otherwise do. Thanks so much, and let me know if I can be of any support to you.”
The job-transition process is stressful. Computers often make the first selection, and then a human being never even sees the application. But you can make a difference by making a connection and taking mystery out of the process. Have courage and do what you can, but let go of defensiveness and don’t be pushy.
Facilitate communication between your friend and the hiring manager. Try to figure out what each really needs to know. Keep your communications honest, enthusiastic, relevant, and brief.
Which role have you been in–hiring manager, job-seeker, or employed friend? Have you experienced any of this? What have you learned through the process? What if you have mixed feelings about your friend’s job performance? What would you do?
Amy Kay Watson coaches talented, brilliant, tender-hearted professionals (like you!) to discover their destiny, own their power, and live their purpose with courage, humor, and compassion–even in a corporate environment. To learn more, go to CareerLeadershipAlignment.com.
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