Recruitment & Hiring

How to hire friends and relatives without a backlash

Melinda Oliver /

Swiss bank UBS has suspended two staff members in Hong Kong, amid an investigation into why it reportedly hired a woman related to the director of a corporate client in China, the South China Morning Post reports.  

According to the report the company became a lead contender in a bid for work related to the $US1 billion initial public offering of Tianhe Chemicals, after the daughter of the firm’s chairman was hired. The woman had reportedly been working for a rival bank, JPMorgan Chase, which was previously the front runner for the contract, according the report.

A source with knowledge of the investigation reportedly said the investigation centred on whether the company’s hiring standards and procedures had been in any way breached.

While this scenario may involve the high end of business, if SMEs are looking to hire family members, close friends or contacts that could sway business, this should be navigated with caution, an expert says.

Recruitment expert Karen Gately, the founder of human resources firm Ryan Gately, told SmartCompany the trick to hiring family or friends is being willing to act with integrity, openness and with evidence to back your decision.

“My sister worked for me as a business manager for five years, so this matter is close to my heart,” she says.

Here are Gately’s five tips to hire with success:

1. Enlist a second opinion

Gately says if a family member or friend applies for a role in your SME, assess them in the same way as everyone else, and enlist a senior manager or colleague to help with the recruitment process to ensure it is as fair as always.

“Allow them (the colleague) to have a voice…and be open-minded that they might not think your friend or relative is the best person for the job,” she says.

2. Ensure their skills are the best

When choosing a friend or family member over other applicants, Gately says to ensure their skills and experiences stack up the best against the rest, and be willing to prove this if need be.

“If you are challenged, this way you can clearly show that their skills and abilities were strong and you can justify your decision,” she says.

3. Open communication

If you do hire a friend of family member, Gately says to make sure you communicate with them in the same way that you would with other staff, and be willing to criticise or give feedback at the same level.

“They need to understand how they are going…if you don’t give great feedback you can undermine your business from getting the best from that role and you are robbing their ability to be great in that role and excel in their career.

“By having integrity you are helping that individual to achieve their best.”

4. No special treatment

Gately says it is vital not to offer special treatment to a family member or friend, as other team members can start to lose faith in your decision-making and integrity.

“They can think there’s no point in offering up ideas, because if the boss’s brother doesn’t like it, it won’t happen.

“It can undermine their passion.”

5. Keep personal life separate

Gately says it is “naïve” to think that keeping work and personal life separate will be always possible or easy with a family member or friend on board.

However, she says keeping things as professionally focused as possible is best for all involved.

“People should have trust in your decision-making and how you operate, and know you are objective and made a good decision (with your hiring choice),” she says.

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