Job search by proxy?
August 23, 2005 12:20 PM   Subscribe

Should I apply for a job on behalf of a friend?

A close friend is currently out of the country for a month. She lost her job and will need to find work on her return. A position just opened up in a non-profit organization that she'd likely love; it's not exactly in her field, but it's work she'd enjoy, and she's expressed a great deal of interest in this organization.

HOWEVER, there's no way to reach her before the application is due, so I'd have to send in her resume/cover letter and answer the questions on the app for her. I know her well enough to do this convincingly, and I'm not really interested in the "is this ethical" debate, as I'll likely paste the answers from similar applications I've helped her with in the past, so it's not completely fabricated.

However, I have no way of knowing whether or not this job is something she'd be interested in, and I may have to correspond with the employer on her behalf if they contact her (I have access to her email). The cover letter will be "from" her, and it will explain that she may be difficult to contact for the next weeks.

My question is, should I apply for her, thus ensuring she doesn't miss out on a potentially perfect opportunity, or chalk it up to a missed connection because the logistics are complicated? I don't want to put her into a complicated position without consulting with her first, but I don't want her to be disappointed that she missed her shot, either.
posted by hamster to Work & Money (16 answers total)
No way at all?
posted by phrontist at 12:26 PM on August 23, 2005

Kind of a sticky situation. I'm in favor of your friend having a shot at applying for the job, but balk at the idea of your misrepresenting that the letter is actually from her. I would advise taking a "little white lie" route and present yourself as some kind of agent or recruiter on her behalf. Say, "I have worked with this person and helped her apply for jobs before, and I know her skills well and believe this job would be a real fit. She is out of the country but I am supplying her most current resume." Something of that nature. If your friend gets back and decides she isn't interested, she can just say "I discussed this with my recruiter/agent and it isn't what I'm looking for at this time." A flat-out lie would be a lot tougher to work around in the future.
posted by matildaben at 12:27 PM on August 23, 2005

While not questioning the ethics, what's the worst that could happen? While not the most classy thing to do, accepting a job offer and quitting before you start ("Upon further thought, I don't believe Company X would be a good fit") is not unheard of. I would only be careful if there's a lot of talk between companies in this industry or she wishes to work for the company again.
posted by geoff. at 12:28 PM on August 23, 2005

Oh all you care about is sending in the resume, not accepting the job on her behalf. I take matildaben's approach.
posted by geoff. at 12:30 PM on August 23, 2005

Response by poster: I couldn't accept the job on her behalf--the most I could do would be to send in the application with a note indicating that because she will be out of contact for a period of time, I can route messages to her. Because the application also includes questions, I would have to answer them for her (based on a file of answers from similar applications; we've always worked on job apps together) and send them in as if they were hers. Which, in a way, they are...
posted by hamster at 12:42 PM on August 23, 2005

Best answer: I would try an honest approach. Write a letter to the non-profit org explaining the situation. Mention that your friend has expressed enthusiasm for working for them in the past, and tell them how good a fit she would be for the position. Then ask if they would be willing to extend the application due-date because of the special circumstances.

I think an approach like this could pique their curiosity about your friend enough so that they might say yes. Even if they've started interviewing other candidates by the time they receive your friend's application, there's no reason they couldn't add her to their appointment schedule if they're interested. On the other hand, they could say no on principle saying it wouldn't be fair to extend for her and not for other applicants. But even if they did say no this time, it might cause your friend's name to stick in their minds for the next time they have an opening.
posted by hazyjane at 12:53 PM on August 23, 2005

matildaben hit it right on the head: be (somewhat) honest. Explain that she's incommunicado, but that this is a job she is qualified for and would be interested in. You are just helping her so that she doesn't miss out on this great opportunity.
posted by BradNelson at 12:53 PM on August 23, 2005

I don't know that Company X would be that interested in what the reasons behind your friend's not being there are.

Think about the number of applications they receive, this just makes it easier to put hers in the do-not-call list if you play the agent/recruiter route. I think they'll just see it as a sign of immaturity on her behalf. If this is what's happening at the application stage, what's to say that something similar won't happen at another stage in the employment.

The reason I say this is because back when I was 15 or so, I would want to call in sick for a job but would want a friend to call in for me. Not only was that not believable to the boss but it also showed that I didn't take responsibility for my actions.

Apply for the job on behalf of your friend. The company doesn't need to know anymore than what they're asking on the application. If they want to speak with her, you can answer the email/phone call and say that she's out of town on a family emergency or something. It's like going through customs at the airport, you don't volunteer more information than you need to.

And when your friend gets back, you explain everything to her and let her make the decision of whether she wants to pursue the job.
posted by eatcake at 1:02 PM on August 23, 2005

I'll admit that I'm a little surprised by the answers. There's no way I would ever do this, not for a friend, not for a sibling, not for a spouse. It's dishonest, to your friend and to the potential employer.

Do your best to alert your friend to the prospect--e-mail, call her hotel, whatever. But, if you can't get in touch in time, well, then it's out of your hands. If, in response, she asks you to help her put her materials together, then go ahead. But answering questions on her application, and writing a cover letter--even if it's cut-and-pasted from her past stuff--is putting words in her mouth and subjecting someone else to the consequences. You yourself said that you don't even know if this is something she'd be interested in.

If anyone ever caught wind of it, her name, and yours, could be blacklisted in certain circles. Don't do it.
posted by CiaoMela at 1:43 PM on August 23, 2005

I think under certain extenuating circumstances I would be willing to apply for a job on behalf of a friend, but I wouldn't ever do it without my friend's permission. If there's no way to contact her before the application is due, don't do it. You're taking a risk not just with your own reputation and employability, but hers. Even if things turned out for the best, if I were her I'd be angry at you for risking my career without my consent.
posted by Chanther at 3:04 PM on August 23, 2005

I don't think you should do it, and I think the friend might learn a lesson about going off for a month incommunicado when she needs work. Believe me, I'm as far as you can get from thinking people should be reachable at all times, but that's just dumb.
posted by languagehat at 3:28 PM on August 23, 2005

If it was just a matter of sending in a resume I'd say what the hell. The application part makes me uncomfortable. The cover letter particularly so. I don't think it's a good plan. I don't know if I believe the possibility of trouble to the extent CiaoMela mentions but I certainly would find it skeevy.

I think if you're certain this is a good plan you should go with identifying yourself as an agent of your friend, tho you should probably specify that you're acting on behalf of the job seeker, not a paid recuiter. You can state that you're doing this on her behalf while she is traveling by necessity and out of contact and they can contact you for clarification or her directly on XX/XX/XXXX.

Mostly you just don't want to burn her by somehow making her persona non grata to this place you're sure she'd love to work.
posted by phearlez at 3:42 PM on August 23, 2005

This is a much less "important" situation, but when I was 20ish and in college, my mom once called in response to an ad for a part-time job, pretending to be me. She made an appointment for an interview. I went to the interview, and got the job. I worked there for a year until my schedule changed. It wasn't a "career" kind of job, so I guess it's not really the same thing, but my point is - no harm, no foul.
It's a cover letter. It's not like you are going there, dressed up as your friend. A job application is not a commitment. Your friend needs a job and you're just tryiing to help. If she feels that what you did was out of line, she can just say no thank you if they contact her and then it's all over.
posted by clh at 11:17 PM on August 23, 2005

It's not like you are going there, dressed up as your friend.

But that could be the basis for a great screenplay! Especially if it's a guy who dresses up as a woman, and he's always been kind of a macho asshole, but once he goes to work and guys start hitting on him and he sees life from the other side of the gender gap he reforms, and when his friend (who he's always lusted after but she didn't want to get romantic with a macho asshole) comes back and meets him -- wait, first she meets him in drag...

*starts scribbling furiously, wonders about getting an agent*
posted by languagehat at 8:25 AM on August 24, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice. After talking it through with friends, I've decided to let the opportunity pass, partly because there's one question on the application I don't have her answer for--and it seems especially unethical to make one up for her.

I love phrontist's response: thanks, I'll take snippy career advice from high school students when pigs fly.

To clarify: She's incommunicado because she's working in the wilderness for a month, and she's not desperate for work on her return, as she'll have several months living expenses saved on her arrival stateside. Judge not, MeFi.
posted by hamster at 8:57 AM on August 24, 2005

If it was just a matter of sending in a resume I'd say what the hell.
This sucks for all the applicants who are on the ball here, applying for the job their self by knowing about the opportunity. This ranks up there as mommy doing your homework so an Ivy League School accepts you. Unless, your friend had asked you in advance since she would have no other way of applying. You snooze, you lose.

she's not desperate for work on her return
Then why do you want to fill in an empty space with her?
posted by thomcatspike at 1:58 PM on August 24, 2005

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