Hiring a Friend for an Executive Opening

There is an opening on your executive leadership team and you are thinking of a friend for the position. As you are no doubt aware, there are precautions you’ll want to take when hiring a friend for such a position. There are pros and cons to asking a friend to work with you at your company where you would be their boss.

The first question to ask yourself is how well you know them in a professional context? Did you meet them at a prior company? Have you seen their leadership style in action? Do they possess the requisite skills to do the job? Do they have a strong work ethic? Are they going to be a cultural fit with the organization?

If you feel good about the answers to these questions, then you may have identified an excellent candidate for the role. Many of today’s friendships are born out of working relationships. In this case, there is already a familiarity with each other’s working style. However, in the past, were you senior to your friend? If not, be cognizant of the shift in power dynamics before reaching out.

The next step is to ensure every candidate goes through the same process. It’s important for you to maintain objectivity and introduce a decision making buffer between you and your friend. Whether it’s your internal HR team or a retained search firm, your friend can be in the mix without unnecessary pressure on you to select him or her.

Failure to separate yourself in whole or in part from the decision will create stress and anxiety that you don’t need. The negative ramifications of hiring a friend range from a poor reflection of you to the C-suite and board members, to the negative business consequences of their thinking they can play office politics or take liberties others cannot or wouldn’t. As a corporate officer, you have to act with fiduciary responsibility. Your personal bias to a friend could create a conflict of interest. Therefore, removing yourself as the primary decision maker is a wise decision.

At this point, if they are offered the position, you’ve done an excellent job finding and qualifying them as the best person for the role. Remember though, conflict is going to be inevitable and it is best to be proactive about it so both of you are clear on your goals and expectations. The final step is managing their expectations at the outset and making sure they are also conducting their own due diligence. This will eliminate potential obstacles down the road.

Questions for the two of you to discuss could include:

  • How will they handle it if you disagree with them in a meeting?
  • How will they react to a goal or hard deadline that pushes them out of their comfort zone?
  • How will they feel if you override a decision they made?
  • How will they behave if you had to give them a negative performance review?
  • How will they respond if they don’t hit their bonus?

Hiring any new executive requires a balance of patience, candor, and trust. This is especially true when that person is a friend. The last thing you want is to create drama at work or be known for cronyism. The key question you have to ask yourself before you say anything is if you’re willing to say “no” to this person about the job? Never hire anyone that you cannot fire.

If you need help hiring for your executive team, friends or otherwise, reach out to us at Sheer Velocity. We can help you navigate the process to ensure you end up with only the top candidates for your specific needs.