Thursday, January 31, 2013

Real Talk With Rachel: Working On It

by Rachel Kurzius

Dear Rachel,

I work in an office of 20 people. There is an open position for a job on my team, and I have mentioned it to friends because I complained about the extra work I’ve been doing as my boss is trying to fill the position.

One of my friends contacted me and asked if I would put in a good word for her. She is more of a “Friday” friend, and she is always late and not the most intelligent. I do not want to go out on a limb for her. I don’t know how to tell her this and she keeps pestering me.

What should I do?

Can’t Get It to Work Out

Dear Can’t Get It to Work Out,

The funny thing about “Friday” friends is that if you only see them on Fridays, you’re likely to see them in situations where they don’t seem like the most reliable employees. Even though your friend might not be the sharpest or most punctual tool in the shed, she’s got one thing right -- an inside referral could really help her get a job.

Listen to this, from an article in The New York Times this week: “Referred candidates are twice as likely to land an interview as other applicants, according to a new study of one large company by three economists from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. For those who make it to the interview stage, the referred candidates had a 40 percent better chance of being hired than other applicants.” (Full article here:

Just because she’s heard the phrase, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” doesn’t mean you want her on your team, though. Clearly, you feel the opposite. Your judgmental attitude made me wonder whether she is truly as unqualified as you make it seem. Perhaps you fear that bringing a “Friday” friend into your work environment will merge your worlds in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable.

Rethink that notion. Times are tough out there for job applicants, and a bit of good karma could ultimately help you in a big way down the road. Do unto others, and all that.

If you’ve thought deep and hard about why you’re so averse to her coming on board and it truly, absolutely has to do with her lack of intelligence and gutter-level work ethic, then you’ve got a couple of options.

First, you could lie. I bet this is tempting. You could tell your friend to submit her resume through the regular channels, with the (broken) promise you’ll pass along some kind words to your boss. Lying has the benefit of preserving your Friday friendship without putting your neck out in any way.

But what if she ends up getting the job without your help? Your whole knotted yarn of lies could untangle itself with a simple tug, and you’ll have ruined your relationship with your now-colleague. It’s pretty much the rapscallion thing to do, but it has the benefit of avoiding conflict.

Often, people will do just about anything to dance around an issue instead of confronting it.

It would be better to be honest, though treat the whole situation with more tact than you employed in your letter to me. The next time she inquires about the opening, you could tell her that your company is looking for a candidate who has very certain skills. List those skills, so long as they are truthful. This could scare her away from the position.

However, she might counter with examples of how she has gained those skills. Keep your ears open for this conversation, instead of just nodding your head and ignoring her entreaties. You never know if she’s more qualified than you suspected.

The bottom line is this -- do not actively get in the way of her getting hired, even if you choose not to stick your neck out on her behalf. You need help with all that extra work you’ve been doing anyway.

And perhaps this will make you think again before you choose to complain on a Friday night. You never know when people will find opportunity in your whines.

All the best,


Rachel Kurzius revels in giving advice, and has provided counsel both as a columnist and a friend. She lives in Washington DC, where she works as a news producer. Real Talk with Rachel is published on All Life is Local and the Cleveland Park Listserv,, on Wednesdays. Need advice? You can write to Rachel via or (advice @ or via

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