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One of my closest friends owns her own HR consultancy. About a year ago, I connected her with another close friend, and she hired her. On a personal level, I dig these ladies. On a professional level, I respect and admire them. For the most part, I reap the benefits of both relationships on a personal and professional level, but it does take a good bit of self-control and etiquette.

I work for a small start-up data consultancy. We don’t have an HR department. We source, vet, interview and make decisions about our own hires. We don’t offer healthcare benefits. We don’t do any team building or StrengthsFinder Assessments. And, all complaints are handled on a case-by-case basis by the CEO/President/Founder of our company. We NEED HR help, but we can’t afford it.

Can anybody out there relate to this dilemma? Is your organization so fledgling or small that you hire only the talent, and then work your way through your own HR needs? Do you try to glean advice from friends in the industry without overstepping the boundaries of professionalism or damaging friendships?

If you find yourself in this same situation, let me offer you some personal advice on what to do, and what NOT to do to preserve those relationships:

  1. DO a LOT of listening. In the course of friendly engagements, you can get lots of pearls. When I am hanging out with my friends socially, I listen to them talk about the topics of their next blogs, and what kinds of trainings they are doing for themselves and their clients. I learn a lot about the value of their offerings, and also what may be important for our company as we grow.
  2. DO be their guinea pig. Whenever they are looking to try out a new inventory or training, or are writing a new blog and need someone to read it – DO IT! This provides you with your own personal education, and also gives them a safe trial run with a friendly audience.
  3. DO go to networking events with them. This doubles your reach, allowing you to introduce them to people you know who may need their services, and vice versa for yourself. Plus – it’s fun to go out for drinks afterward and catch up on the kids and such.
  4. DON’T ask them to “keep their eyes open for a _______”. This is what they get paid for. If you want to hire them to find you a _________, then hire them. They are your friends. Not your free recruiters.
  5. DON’T be a taker (of introductions) without being a giver. In the world of sales, services, and networking, it’s important for us all to scratch one anothers’ backs. I know we are all trying to sell ourselves, but being a good friend in the professional world means that you’re also listening for needs that you can’t fill. Sometimes, it’s just that – that you hear about a need in a company (a resource, a training, etc.). That’s when you need to be thinking about your HR friends. If you do that for them, it’s highly likely that they will be listening in their network for spaces that you may fill.
  6. DO treat all introductions with respect. Recruiters don’t open their rolodex to just anyone. If they are willing to make an introduction, it is because they trust that you will treat the introduction professionally. That means you aren’t pushy and you don’t do any proverbial eye rolling. And, if the relationship doesn’t evolve into a contract, you consider the introduction an expansion of your network that you now treat respectfully.

Having friends in the HR industry is awesome. They have seen so many businesses from the inside that they can serve as great resources for you as you grow. The challenge is that while you’re growing into being able to hire your own HR professional(s), you have to be respectful of the boundaries between friendship and business.  I try to mind my p’s and q’s as I navigate this relationship, but on the inside I’m just hoping we grow fast enough that I can hire my friends – because I’m coming to realize that they’re just darned good at what they do.

Christine Burrows
Christine Burrows
Christine Burrows provides business development for Perscio, an Indy-based data consultancy that helps organizations become data-driven. She considers herself a friend to the training/coaching arm of HR, with a passion for helping people know, understand and use their natural strengths. In her sales role (she's got Woo as her first strength), she delights in meeting new people and finding ways to bring people together for the greater good. As far as the other parts of HR, Christine delights in having close friends who know that stuff.

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