I’ve been in the position to hire a lot of programmers over the last few years. This is a great responsibility; one that doesn’t come without a bunch of unique situations, especially when it deals with colleagues and friends.
One of the biggest concerns I think friends and colleagues might have revolves around how the conversation should go if they weren’t hired. Perhaps it should be awkward now? Maybe they don’t like me?
Instead, let’s talk about a few reasons why you might not get hired, even if we’re friends and colleagues - and more importantly, what you can do about it then.
There Might Be a Better Fit
When it comes down to it, any hiring manager’s first duty is to their company. They need to make sure they hire employees that fit the company’s culture and can do the job the best, most accurately, most efficiently and most cost-effective way. You might not have just been the best fit.
You might think - ok fine, but we’re friends. He should bend a little to help me out. But, you’re forgetting that hiring managers are also measured on their performance hiring. By feeling this way, you’re saying in order to boost your career, you’re expecting your friend or colleague to put his or her career in jeopardy.
It’s also true that you just might not have been the best fit. There are people who have more experience, more skill, have better connections or can do the job cheaper than you. You might want, deserve and need a certain wage - but if an equally skilled person can and wants to do it for half the cost, there is a fiduciary responsibility to be met now.
You’re the Friend Who Never Gets the Keys
We all have different types of friends and colleagues. Maybe you’ve met your professional connection through a networking group but have never worked with them. You can’t expect them to vouch about your work. Perhaps you’re friends, but not the kind of friends that would be trusted to check in and water the plants when the other is on vacation. Maybe you’re the party friend, not the serious friend.
You should be serious about how well you know this person - and what your relationship really is. You could know each other, but it doesn’t mean that they are willing to put their neck out for you.
It’s Not Personal
As much as having a new job, an upgrade, or whatever the case may mean to you, it’s not personal that you’re rejected. You shouldn’t now change the way you deal with your friend. Remember, it could be even harder to work with your friend (a lack of job offer is a lot easier to weather on a friendship than getting fired).
What Can You Do
Here’s where the lines are blurry again. When you’re asking your friend or colleague about why you didn’t get the job, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, they were acting as an agent for the company. The company could have policies or procedures in place (and legal considerations) that restrict their employee (your friend) from talking about interviews - even to the interviewee themselves.
Second, they might not be the only person involved with the hiring decision. Asking them can feel like they’re being cornered to give a reason. This isn’t fair and can stress your friendship or relationship. It “shouldn’t” but it will.
What You Should Do
Thank your friend for whatever help they did to give you a shot. Recognize that when you interview on behalf or connected to a friend or colleague, the risk/reward is potentially greater. You might have made it further up the process because of your connection, but you’re less likely to find out more about your performance - because it can get tricky. Just be ok with the opportunity and potential offer.
You can always try to ask for ways that you might improve your performance for future interviews, but try to be careful when you word it. Don’t say “what did I do wrong?” Instead say “I’m not sure if this is going to work out, but you were somewhat involved with the process. Can you tell me anything that you might think I could do better for my next interview?” If you’re sleuthie enough, you might pick up actual things you “did wrong” in this current interview that way - without the stress put on your friend or colleague.
While having your next job might seem like the most important thing ever (especially depending on how desperate your situation might seem), your relationship with your friend or colleague is usually more useful longterm. Don’t burn bridges or make this one opportunity awkward for them. In fact, depending on the business and emotional maturity of your colleague, they might have a higher measure of you in the future based on how you handle this interaction with them.