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An ex-colleague has asked me to introduce them to a contact of mine. I would normally do so without hesitation, but we are currently looking for the same kind of job. I was even planning on talking to this contact myself, before the request came. What should I do?

  • I have always been on friendly terms with my colleague, and hold them in high regard.
  • We are probably a close match in terms of job market value.
  • My contact is a valuable one, in that they made the same career steps that both my ex-colleague and I are planning, and they are now happily working at an attractive potential employer.

I would appreciate answers that include not just a decision but also an implementation, and things to watch out for, e.g. "introduce them" and then also how to break it to my contact and the ex-colleague.

Post-fact

Based also on the mix of answers given here, I made sure to meet my contact first, and we had a good informational interview, in which I learned valuable things about the job market. Though it was very useful to talk, it became clear that their company does not have the kind of job that I am looking for.

After this, I introduced my ex-colleague, excusing my tardiness with the fact that I have been swamped with work recently (which is the truth).

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    So you're saying you want to help your ex-colleague get a new job but not take one that could potentially be yours? – Twyxz Sep 18 '18 at 11:32
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    What do you mean by "job pool" – Neuromancer Sep 18 '18 at 12:21
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    We're in the running for the same types of job. I edited this for clarity, thanks. – Nibood_the_slightly_advanced Sep 18 '18 at 13:05
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    Thanks for the update - it's always good to hear how things turned out, and how our advice helped (or not). – sleske Oct 16 '18 at 9:03
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If you wish to maintain a friendly relationship with your ex-colleague, my recommendation would be not to offer to put them in direct contact with the job contact, but instead offer to pass along their resume at the next opportunity.

This has the benefit that it's not a point blank refusal. It's reasonable that you wouldn't want to pass along this third party's contact details to your ex-colleague for privacy reasons, so if they question why you won't put them directly in touch, it should be easy enough for you to respond that you're uncomfortable giving out their details but are happy to pass along the recommendation.

This also allows you to, in the first instance, query your contact about any possibility of a role for yourself. If, for whatever reason, they say no, you're free to then pass along your colleague's resume in the knowledge you're not disadvantaging yourself.

On the other hand, if your contact does offer you a role, you can still then say to him, "By the way, if you're looking for more people I know someone else who might be suitable..." and once again pass along the resume. Most companies I've worked at love to receive recommendations from current employees, it's far less of a risk in their eyes to employ a semi-known quantity than going through a recruiter.

This seems like the best chance you have of maintaining good relations with both parties.

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What should I do?

Don't introduce them. Look after yourself first, do favours for others when you can afford to.

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    this and it might be worth opening a question on interpersonal SE about the specifics of what you want to obtain after you refuse to help - still being on good terms with them etc – viorel Sep 18 '18 at 12:02
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Just be honest and, as Kilisi pointed out, look out for yourself first. That means you should reach out to you contact right now. Assuming you don't get an immediate response you then inform your former colleague that you're actually also looking at your next career step and have already reached out to your contact. Of course you only did so after he made the request, but that's a harmless white lie to avoid having your former colleague think you got the idea from him.

You don't have to do so, but it will likely go over better if you can speak in the past tense here. There's some risk that your former colleague will still assume you only decided to talk to your contact after hearing from him, but there's nothing you can do to control that. You should simply be transparant and open to minimise that possibility and preserve the relationship.

Now, as for what else to do here, that's something for you to decide. If you're comfortable passing along your former colleague's details to your contact as well, and potentially lose a job to him, you can still do so. It would be a kindness but you have no moral obligation to do so. You should also factor in whether your former colleague will reach out to your contact or the company at large if you don't make an introduction, in which case you have little to lose by introducing him as well. But if there's no posted vacancy that all becomes muddier.

An example script for your colleague:

[As you know] I'm also looking [to move on / for a new job] and I've actually already reached out to X to discuss a possible position on his team.

[pick one:]

  • Given that, I think it would make more sense if you apply to the company / contact him yourself. [I'd be happy to connect you two via mail though if that would help.]

  • I'm happy to introduce you as well since I know you'd also be a strong fit for their culture / team, though I understand if you want me to limit my involvement since we'd likely be pursuing the same position.

Regardless of which avenue you take, because you're essentially applying for the same job you'll probably want, and will be expected to, limit your further involvement. Some people might be comfortable asking the both of you to speak about your experience working with the other as a form of reference, though most won't given the innate awkwardness. The key stance to take throughout whatever process follows is simply to be professional and don't sabotage your former colleague. You don't need to sing his praises quite as much as you would if you were asked to be a reference for a job you weren't in the running for but speaking favourably of his strengths if asked is a good sign of professional maturity.

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