Monday, June 4, 2012

Applying for the Same Job as a Friend - Part 1 of 2

A close friend and coworker contacts you on the phone, talking excitedly. Listening more carefully than normal (you have to; you've never heard him so energetic!) you are able to decipher that he found a job posting with another company that would be perfect for him. "Check your email," he says, as he has sent you a link to the job description. After hanging up the phone and gently laughing to yourself, you make your way over to your computer to read the job description. When you get halfway through it, the smile disappears from your face. The added responsibilities, the ability to supervise more staff, the engagement with senior leadership...this position is fantastic.

In fact, it would be fantastic for you.

The above scenario sets in motion a not-uncommon ethical dilemma for job seekers: when two friends apply for the same job (particularly if one found out about it "first"). This is a tricky, burdensome, emotional space to exist in, one that needs to be handled with delicacy, honesty, and practicality. In this two-part series, we will delve into both the logical and emotional components of applying for the same job as a friend.

Pre-Application Assessment

Look at your potential application objectively: As talented, skilled, personable, connected, and everything in between that we feel that we are, none of us are shoo-ins for any job. Nearly all of us have a story where we did not make it past the application phase for a position that we felt we were perfect for. Further, with the many factors that go into hiring the right person for their position (including past experience, skills/abilities, how the candidate presents him/herself in an interview, references/recommendations, professional dress, the candidate's social media history, etc) it's impossible to say which of these is the determining factor that will lead to the candidate being eliminated. The point is that-controlling for these factors between you and your friend-there is no guarantee that you will or won't get the job, so check your ego at the door if you feel you will outperform your friend. All that you need to do is to determine whether you meet the minimum requirements to apply.

Look at your relationship with your friend: For most people, the most difficult part of these situations-even after convincing themselves that the application process won't favor one or the other-is their relationship with their friend. There are two possible outcomes if you apply: your friend will care or you friend will not care. If your friend doesn't care, you're fine; you go about your business and the chips fall where they may. But if you feel that your friend may care, or if you're not sure, you have to be prepare yourself for a tough conversation...and possibly the loss of the friendship. 

Next week: how (if necessary) to have a conversation with your friend.

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