what are the boundaries when your spouse applies for a job with your company?

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A reader writes:

My husband recently graduated from a technical college, and is now on the job search.  Yesterday, he interviewed (which went VERY well!) for a position at the company where I work.

I’ve been there for nearly four years and am in very good standing, as I’ve proven myself a reliable and professional employee.  I personally know a few of the people with which he interviewed (one I even graduated from high school with, and is a friend), have worked with them on projects in the past, and I view them as very friendly, open people.  I’m wondering, what are my boundaries when it comes to talking about my husband’s employment prospects with my co-workers?  Should I remain completely hands-off, and just not do it?  Or because of the close-knit atmosphere, could I approach my fellow employees with a quick mention of how excited my husband is to potentially work there, and that he would be the perfect candidate out of the twelve people they are interviewing?

Additionally, we just really, really need him to get this job!  Finances have been very tight for a very long time, and it would be a complete and total blessing for my husband to land this position.  I realize this is not my fellow employees’ problem, but my company does tend to “take care of their own,” and does employ several husband-wife duos (in different departments, of course).  If it were as simple as just telling my interviewing co-workers that they would not regret hiring my husband, that they won’t find a more driven person, and how badly we need him to snag this position, I’d do it in a heartbeat.  But, I DO NOT want to hurt his prospects in any way!

What do you think?  Would a quick chat with a fellow friend/co-worker possibly help my husband?  Or would I just end up hurting him?

Personally, I wouldn’t do it. It’s not going to come as any surprise to them that you’d say positive things about your husband, and you risk putting them in an awkward position if they end up not thinking he’s the best person for the job.

And by not attempting to influence the decision, you demonstrate that you’re able to handle the situation professionally if indeed they do hire him.  There’s always a concern when hiring someone’s spouse that they’ll inappropriately function as a unit — i.e., that if Spouse A isn’t getting along with her boss, Spouse B’s relationship with that person will be impacted too, and so forth. So by demonstrating now that you keep your marriage and your business life separate, I’d argue that you’re actually helping his candidacy.

I’d probably say something like this:   “John is really excited about the role after his interview yesterday, and I think that position could be a great fit. However, I want to make sure you know that it’s not going to cause any awkwardness with me if he ultimately doesn’t get the job — although of course I hope he does!”  And then I’d leave it there.

However, if you ignore me and decide to say something to your coworkers after all, at least avoid statements like the one above saying that he’d be the best person for the job out of the 12 people they’re interviewing — because unless you’re very familiar with all the other candidates, you really can’t say that credibly.

Really though, the best way to help your husband in this situation is to help him understand what the company is looking for, what the culture is like, how he could best make a contribution in the role he’s applying for, and any company-specific nuances that might help him communicate that.

Anyone want to disagree?

{ 16 comments… read them below }

  1. Kelly O

    I can’t disagree. My husband and I work for the same company, and we’ve both found it’s easier to just not bring up the other one.

    Honestly the worst problem we have working together is other people trying to lump us together. I find myself saying, sometimes more frequently than I’d like, “at work I am not married. I am just Kelly.”

    I would definitely advise this person to not make any comment at all, and act like this is just another person applying for a job if anything at all is brought up. It might even behoove you to have an answer ready, like AAM mentions, so that you’re not caught off-guard and answer with something inappropriate.

  2. Wilton Businessman

    I’d leave it at “John is really excited about the role after his interview yesterday”. If you work in a company that “takes care of it’s own”, then he already has an advantage over the others as long as the decision makers know of the relationship.

  3. Joey

    Talk to the other husband and wife duos to help guide you on what to do. It really comes down to culture.

  4. Kathy

    AAM is spot-on. I was in the same position a few years ago. I had been in my job for about 2 years when my husband applied for a job in the same organization, with MY supervisor! It was pure torture for me not to talk about my husband to my boss, but I managed to refrain. He ended up getting the job and my boss told me numerous times it was becuase he was the best candidate, nothing more (which of course I hoped that was the reason!). Either way, you’ll know soon–either he’ll get the job and you can talk about it more or he won’t. This dilemma is temporary.

  5. New to HR

    I agree, hands-off seems to be the best approach. He should be treated the same as any other candidate and prove himself the best for the position. We recently hired a daughter of an employee PT, but the hiring manager did not realize he had hired a relative until after the job offer was made. Regardless of a spouse or family member currently employed, each candidate has to be able to stand on their own.

  6. Jamie

    I wouldn’t say a word. I think deliberately remaining uninvolved would help him far more than anything you could say.

    Also, I understand the sentiment, but I would find any reference to how hiring him would help you out of a tough financial spot to be very off-putting, if I were the employer.

    I feel for you – but the thought that it might help you because they would want to “take care of their own” smacks of entitlement to me. That’s no different than those people who ask for a raise because they bought a bigger house, or had a baby, or need a new car. That’s not the company’s problem. Hiring and salary should never be based on the need of the recipient – but solely what you bring to the table for the company.

    I would venture to guess that if some of the other applicants are also out of work finances are probably very tight for them as well. I would feel like you were trying to guilt me into hiring your husband and I would really resent that card being played.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Agreed wholeheartedly. Any mention of “need” doesn’t belong in that conversation, because you can’t ask the company to base a hiring decision on financial need. You don’t want to sound like you’re even hinting at that.

      1. Talyssa

        Plus its really an uncomfortable conversation for the workplace in GENERAL – one of my coworkers is always saying “oh I can’t afford that” or complaining about various costs, lack of funds, etc, and its just awfully uncomfortable. Not because I’m uncomfortable talking about money (I’m not actually, at all) but because in the normal course of things, if someone mentions having money trouble to you I think that’s an invitation to give advice. Except in the workplace where it just isn’t a good topic of conversation even between coworkers you’re very friendly with. I’ve had one or two coworker friends who I eventually got close enough to have those kind of conversations with but they were evening and weekend conversations when we went out to dinner. Money, Politics, Religion. Probably not a good idea in the office.

  7. Anonymous

    I disagree with the idea of even mentioning he’s interested.

    HE should be the one following up, noting his interest and excitement after the interview, not you. Stay out of it completely.

    I get itchy when well-meaning employees come to confirm that they’re brother/sister/cousin/friend is oh-so-perfect and excited for the opportunity. Because then if they don’t get the job, I feel I owe the employee an explanation and it’s always 100% awkward…and they generally use my letting them know as an opportunity to ask for feedback. Err on the side of having stricter boundaries than more open boundaries with things like this.

    Let his experience and his actions speak for how capable and excited he is, not yours.

  8. Kaleigh

    I want to agree that mentioning it to co-workers isn’t a big deal, and probably it isn’t, but people are funny about things. It’s not really necessary for someone else to step in and speak about how excited he is about the role, especially because he should’ve clearly communicated that himself during the interview. And I agree that, more often than not, the spouse will have nothing but good things to say about the other spouse, so they’re not exactly going to take that response and use it as a solid foundation for whether to hire the candidate.

  9. Anonymous

    My husband just landed a job in a city we’re relocating to. Is it wrong for him to send my resume over to the HR dept. for this opportunity or would it be better for me just to email her directly and not mention him at all?

  10. Bhuvaneshwar Dharmalingam

    How would you handle it if you had to be in a position above him – say a supervisor – not directly above him but higher up in hierarchy.
    How would you handle this at home?

  11. Bhuvaneshwar Dharmalingam

    If you have to take disciplinary action against your husband at a later stage, you may be in an awkward position.
    Also, if he asks you at home to know about a meeting you’ve had, related to his performance – how would you be able to handle that?

  12. Meaghan

    I am in the same sort of issue, my fiance is a manager of a small kiosk. He loves his job and because of the limited hours they give him for other employees he can only hire casual part timers for 5 to 10 hours a week. He recently had someone quit and is now looking to hire someone new. He have 2 children together and I told him to interview me. His job has a 3 interview process so he cant hire me because I am me. He is afraid if he asks is it okay to interview his spouse they will say no but also they can’t legally ask that question. I understand the job fully as I have worked retail longer then he has and also had more management positions then he has *lol* that I am suited for the job. But he is so afraid it will reflect badly on him if he doesnt inform them i am his spouce even if they approve of me knowing Im not his spouse.

  13. Dan

    The main advantage is that a company can relocate two employees for the price of one. The disadvantage is how do you discipline or fire one of them without automatically having to fire the other one?

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