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BLUF: A professional contact and friend for whom I am a reference called me today and asked me to be a reference, howver I have applied for the same position.

I prefer to remain open and share that I am also applying. What recommendations can the Manager Tools community offer?

jhack's picture

You should reveal that you have also applied for the same position.

You did so independently, right?

John

TomW's picture

You told him that you applied for the same position right then on the phone, right?

If not, what are you waiting for?

Once you tell your friend that you applied for the same position, it creates a very understandable situation where you cannot be a reference.

freeborn's picture

Yes. My application with that firm was in my plan. I had foreknowledge that the position was going to be open but did not apply until the firm started advertising.

My friend and I each respect one another and are successful in our field. Yet my dilemma is that I wish no ill feelings to come from the process no matter the outcome.

My recommendation of him is without equivocation because I believe we both know our stuff.

freeborn's picture

[quote="TomW"]Once you tell your friend that you applied for the same position, it creates a very understandable situation where you cannot be a reference.[/quote]

Just to clarify your point, is it fair to say "cannot" our "ought not" be a reference?

Each of us is gainfully employeed yet keeping an eye out to work at new firms. Our business and speciality are quite narrow.

jhack's picture

The appearance of a conflict of interest can be as damaging as an actual conflict.

If you agree to give a reference, and he doesn't get the job, and you do get it...

...would he always have a nagging doubt? You didn't intentionally, but maybe subconsciously, gave a less than stellar reference? Might you?

And what would the employer think? They know you applied. If you give a less than glowing reference, you'll be considered, perhaps, biased. And if you really truly believe he's the best candidate, why not withdraw your name from consideration?

Too many bad possible outcomes.

John

MattJBeckwith's picture

That is quite a predicament.

As others have said, you have to tell your friend.

You also should be up front with the hiring company. Would you have given a good reference had it not been your same position? If so, you still need to.

Best of luck.

TomW's picture

[quote="freeborn"][quote="TomW"]Once you tell your friend that you applied for the same position, it creates a very understandable situation where you cannot be a reference.[/quote]

Just to clarify your point, is it fair to say "cannot" our "ought not" be a reference?

Each of us is gainfully employeed yet keeping an eye out to work at new firms. Our business and speciality are quite narrow.[/quote]

BLUF: Keeping your application in and giving the referral just carries too much risk.

You're a reference for someone else over yourself for a job you are applying for. A good recommendation hurts your prospects and a bad one helps them. Some would call that a conflict of interest.

A lot can go wrong here.
[list][*]The HR person could wonder if your recommendation is genuine.
[*]The HR person could question the character of someone who is willing to compete against a "friend" for a position.
[*] if you give the reference and your friend gets the job, you might later wonder if you should have gotten it (especially if, for example, from your friends stories he hates it and you would have loved it)
[*] if you give the reference and then you get the job, your friend will wonder if you sabotaged him.
[*]Your friend might wonder why you are still applying. By still applying with the knowledge that your friend is, it implies that you think you're the better candidate (if you didn't think you could get the job, you wouldn't apply, right?)
[*]If it's that narrow of an industry, the HR person might have a problem with the situation now and then remember you poorly for future openings and discount you in the future. [/list:u]
That's a lot of risk for very little reward, since you claim neither of you really needs the job. Some of these risks could cost you more than the job; they could cost you your friendship

If you want some good brain-twisting material on this , listen to the Horstman's Wager cast. I think the same concept applies

The way I see it, you have three choices that don't cause any potential guilt or conflict:
1) Withdraw your application and give the reference
2) Keep your application in and don't give the reference
3) Tell your friend everything and ask them how THEY would prefer to proceed. Maybe your friend would want to compete (and understand why you being a reference while applying yourself is very risky) or be willing to drop out.

Keeping your application in and giving the referral just carries too much risk.

If you really thought that keeping this from your friend was the right thing to do, would you still be here asking about it?

MsSunshine's picture

BLUF: You should tell your friend you are going to apply for the job, tell them what you would say in a reference and then let them chose if they want you for a reference. You should apply for the job and let the company choose the best fit.

Just because you want a job that is the same as your friend, that does not mean you are not a good friend. That does not mean that you think you are better or worse than your friend. You simply want a job and think you can do well at it. They believe the same thing. Both of you are right. You both probably have different strengths and weaknesses. The one the company picks (and it may be someone else entirely) is not "better" than the other, it's just the best fit for what the company needs at the time. Different types of people can be needed at different times in an organization's life depending on the challenges being faced.

I live in a smaller area with not many choices for my profession. Any time I apply for a position, a friend is also applying. Some positions I have gotten and some I have not. Yes, I feel a little bad when I get it but I have always found that it was best for some reason as time progressed. Chances are that you are not the best judge of what exactly they need at the moment. I would also never personally ask a friend to sacrifice a potential good job for themselves just because I was interested in it as well.

What you need to do is talk to your friend. If you have not had an honest conversation with each other about your strengths and weaknesses, you should do so. I have gotten the best feedback for growth from my friends when they care enough to give me honest opinions.

When you give the reference, it's not a choice of pumping up your friend or putting them down. It's giving honest opinions of what you think their strengths and weaknesses are. Chances are a good interviewer will talk to them about their strengths and weaknesses as well. The interviewer can also tell honest information based on facts versus someone trying to kill the competition.

If I were the interviewer, I would be impressed that you could give constructive, balanced input.