Career advice that works for you.

Think Before You Help

Posted on November 26, 2009 by Emily Bardeen

What do you do when someone asks for help getting a job in your organization? Most people want to help. On the other hand, helping is risky. How do you help someone get a job but protect your own hard-earned political capital?
A friend of mine asked me this after her efforts to help a former colleague monumentally backfired. A VP who had been laid off from her previous company contacted her about an open position in her current firm. My friend’s actions to help him turned into a political disaster for her when she passed his resume on to her boss –and her boss was applying for the same position.


Help By Providing Insight

Never tell a job seeker you can’t help with a job search. Tell him what you can do.   
Be sure you’re comfortable with what a job seeker wants you to do. Read the person’s resume.  If a job seeker is not a good fit for a position or your company, it is unfair to either of you to pass on a resume or make a recommendation.
Tell them what you can do instead of recommending them: “If you apply, my sense is there will be stronger candidates for this position. What I can do is give you contact names in XYZ area, where you could be a better fit.  I think they would give you advice on where the division is headed and what they look for in their candidates.”


Help Solve the Problem

In the end, there is only one job: problem-solver. Successful job seekers research the company as well as the job so they understand the problems that need solving, then write their resumes and cover letters to address them.

Share what you do know.  Help the job-seeker research the problem by sharing information about the company culture, philosophy or business practices. Do a walk-through of the company web-site to identify key documents such as organization charts, annual reports or strategic plans.  


Help Be A Person Not A Piece Of Paper

The number one rule for any job-seeker is to connect in person (be a person) instead of sending a resume (a piece of paper).  Assisting a job-seeker to make an appropriate personal connection is high value help.

Once you identify a good in-house connection, send an email to your contact that introduces the job-seeker, how you know him/her, that you’ve suggested they connect and why. Be clear whether you are recommending the person or simply making a connection.  Depending on your company culture, you may want to copy your supervisor.  Forward a copy of the message to the job-seeker so that he/she is clear on the nature of your introduction.


It’s human nature to help when asked. The best way to help job-seekers and maintain your workplace reputation is to share what you know and what you can do, and stay away from the areas you don’t know about or can’t do.

1 to “Think Before You Help”

  1. Melanie says:

    I’ve heard stories before that my friend helped her friend to get the job but my friend lost hers. Yes, very risky sometimes but not at all times.
    Melanie@College and Career Planning

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