3 Questions You Should Ask Before Hiring Your Friends

June 23, 2016, 12:30 AM UTC
Businessman watching couple talk
Photograph by Echo — Cultura RF via Getty Images

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 William Vanderbloemen, founder and CEO of Vanderbloemen Search Group.

A friend once told me, “It’s only nepotism if they stink at the job.”

The only time it’s a bad decision to hire family or friends is if they aren’t a competency fit or cultural fit for the job. If you have friends or family members who are great at what they do and would bring valuable skill sets to your company, you should hire them the same as you would an unknown person who has that value.

With that being said, it is a tricky process to navigate. It’s unlike other hires in that you’re blending your personal and professional life. It can be great, but it also has the potential to get awkward, or—at worst—disastrous. The good news is that there are several temperature checks that you can take before making a final hiring decision.

Ask yourself these questions before hiring a friend or family member to make sure that the fit is good for all parties and that both your personal relationships and business stay healthy:

Are you Lucy and Ricky or Jim and Pam?
Before hiring a family member, take a step back to gauge where your family falls on the drama meter. Would you and your wife fight at work like Ricky and Lucy in I Love Lucy? Or would you be a team that makes each other better like Jim and Pam in The Office? Your entire workplace will either suffer or get a boost depending on the answer to that question. If you come from a family of frequent fighting or nit-picking, you’d be foolish to think that it will stop just because you walk through the front door of the office. On the flip side, good chemistry for a couple can lead to good culture for the whole. If the workplace benefits from you both being there, you can trust it’s a good hire.

See also: The Harsh Reality of Hiring Your Friends

Is there any blood?
While it’s not a hard-and-fast rule, blood does tend to complicate things. At my company, my first hire was my brother-in-law, and it’s been one of the best hires I’ve ever made. While we are family, there’s no direct blood relation. We didn’t grow up fighting or picking on each other. We knew each other well enough to recognize that our skill sets and personalities complemented each other well, but we didn’t have any drama or weird childhood history that would complicate the work relationship. There was trust, but no baggage.

How are your boundaries?
Everyone needs boundaries between work and personal life, but their importance is magnified when you hire a friend. You don’t want a friend to spend all of their time with you outside of work talking only about work-related things. Conversely, you don’t want constant distraction at work from a friend who can’t focus on work and only wants to have fun. If either of those things are the case, don’t make that hire.

Is he or she a project?
Never date a project. Never marry a project. And never, ever hire a project. The reality is, people don’t change very much. If your friend is constantly late for meetings or your family member has no time-management skills, hiring him or her won’t change that. It will only cause those issues to affect your company now. If you’re bringing on your nephew or a friend’s child for an internship or entry-level position so that he or she can develop work experience, that’s one thing. But if you’re looking at hiring your buddy who complains all the time and doesn’t have a strong work ethic, you’re going to have a big problem on your hands.


What’s the timeline?
Even if all of these boxes are checked, hiring a friend or family member can still make things murky. One great way to minimize risk while maximizing potential is to start friends or family members as temporary hires. Bring them on for six months, then reassess after that. This way, both sides get an “out” if things just aren’t working. And if they are great, you can bring them on full time with total confidence.

Whether you, a friend, or a family member initiates the idea of working together, hiring someone close to you can be a difficult thing to navigate. You have to balance valuing the person with protecting your business. But if you take inventory well by asking the right questions, you can ensure success for everyone involved.