Proceed with caution.
The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “What should you do when your friends ask you to hire them?” is written by Jim Robeson is the CEO and co-founder of PiinPoint, a location analytics company.
When you’re building a startup, every hiring decision is critical. I have friends I’ve wanted to work with, but in each case, I’ve had to ask myself this tough question: Would I be okay if I lost this friendship because of the business? Building a company is not easy and can disrupt even the most solid relationships. There are times when it is more helpful to know that you have a friend to call who is not at the company, who is far removed from the situation, and can lend an objective opinion.
If a friend approached me for a job that I believed was truly a good fit, I’d treat them like everyone else. They would have an expedited interview process in the sense that their resume would be reviewed quickly and we’d bring them in for an interview — especially if it’s a friend from university or grad school, where I would have gotten a sense of their aptitude and work ethic. Nonetheless, the final hiring decision would be made at the committee-level.
In our company, referrals are important. Many of our early employees – all of whom are top performers – came from referrals. If employees know a potential hire, we ask them to rate the candidate on a scale of 1 to 5: 1 means “I know them socially but have no knowledge of their professionalism or work quality,” and 5 means “This individual will be a top performer; I’ve worked with them before, and they are a perfect fit for our organization and will be instrumental in driving the business forward.”
A referrer’s opinion isn’t everything. We have a set of criteria that we use when evaluating candidates, regardless of their association with the company. Our criteria is based on nine variables that range from “Does this person need to be led or can they lead themselves?” to “What is their sense of curiosity?” Speaking to the latter, when someone asks me during their first interview for a demo of the company platform, I know that they have a genuine interest in our solution and they’re not just here because it’s a job.
Finally, when you’re considering hiring friends to join your team, remember that you don’t want to end up with a team that thinks too much like you. You want people to challenge you, push your buttons, raise concerns, and question strategy. You want to build a company with an office culture where people feel like they are free to voice their concerns. A friend may not feel as comfortable doing that, for the sake of the friendship. And that’s something you need to keep in mind before you bring them on.