Is It Okay to Use Your Connections to Get a Job?
In my role as a headhunter I am often asked advice about how to get a new job. My last post suggested that it is not so much “what you know” as “who you know” when seeking a new job. And I recommended that you use your connections, friends of friends, informational interviews, etc. to extend your network of influencers to finally arrive at the interview where you will be offered a job.
I also have a role as co-director of an ethics institute (www.business.rutgers.edu/iel) where ethical issues are asked and where, it seems, I am held to a higher standard – incidentally, there should be only one standard, an ethical one. So, is it “OK” or ethical to employ your contacts to expand your circle of influence to help get a new job? The first rule of thumb is that there is a difference between legal and ethical. It is illegal to use the knowledge you gained from a friend (a stock tip) to profit in the stock market. And it is illegal, to “buy” the influence of someone else through a bribe or a promise of a tangible “quid pro quo.” (I’ll purchase your product if you get give me two tickets to the Packers game.)
But ethics is the gray area.
So, back to our question. Is it OK to ask a friend or a business associate or your uncle to arrange for an interview? As long as there is no guarantee of someone tangibly benefiting, then yes, it’s OK. As a recruiter, I don’t have the time and I am not compensated to meet with those seeking a position unless they are qualified for a job that I am retained to fill. However, if one of my trusted colleagues, or clients, or friends (or family members) asks me to meet with someone looking for a job, I almost always find the time. I am motivated to help out my friends; the “quid pro quo” is that they may do the same for me. There is no implicit or explicit “transaction” rather it is part of a shared value system.
Which is a long way of saying, yes, it’s OK and yes, it’s ethical to ask for someone to arrange an informational interview when seeking a job. Don’t abuse it, and make sure you thank everyone involved (the arranger, the interviewer) and make sure, someday, when you are in the position to do so, you become that influencer who has time for someone looking for a new position.