Early on I learned a list of hiring "nevers" that were passed on to me by mentors and bosses. They were aimed at helping me navigate the treacherous waters of interviewing by pointing out some very obvious explosive mines.
But as I started businesses of my own, I violated a few of these rules–and lived to tell the tale. Here are two that I have violated and what I learned.
It's fraught with all sorts of danger, but I still know many companies that have hired family. Potential problems are manifold:
That all said, I know few small start-ups that have not violated this rule at some point.
The great thing about family is that they "get you." There is a shorthand of shared understanding that can be efficient. Expectations of quality, service, work ethic, and value are taught in the home and naturally carry over to the business.
Hiring friends carries all of the issues of hiring family–plus a few additional ones.
So if you're going to break the rules and hire friends or family, I understand why–but make sure you clarify a few things first.
1. Get it straight up front. Have the conversation about how you are going to work together, and what things will change from your relationship outside of work. I have had this conversation with many people I have hired as employees, contractors and consultants. I have fought with, fired, promoted and recommended different friends at different times. In each case, I have taken the person back to our first conversation as to how we were going to work together. It made the pleasant and unpleasant conversations better. Remember: When good things happen, it's just as important that the person knows he or she earned it.
2. Don't overcompensate. A friend of mine once said, "Just because we are friends, don't feel like you get to make me the example every time you are frustrated with the group." I didn't realize it, but I was singling him out because I didn't want other people to think I was showing favoritism. In this case, he was the least of my concerns–but was getting all of the heat.
3. Stay friends. You make friends in the workplace, so the idea that you are friendly or have friends is normal. But establish clear boundaries that don't create discomfort for the people with whom you work–or hang out.
In large companies with hundreds of people, establishing hard rules about friends and family hiring may be more manageable. When you are starting out, often it is those people who believe and make your dreams possible. It's not easy, but it can be managed and the benefits are worth it.