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What to Do When You’re Competing With a Friend for a Job

Career Advice |

There are three things to keep in mind when you are competing with a friend for a job: respect, transparency, motivation.

Over the past three years I have become very good friends with a co-worker. I even took his engagement photos and attended his wedding in February. We were both ready to make the next step in our career, so when an opportunity presented itself within the company, we both applied for it. This could have gone one of two ways: bad or good. However, we turned it into a good experience for both of us by remembering that while business is business, friendship matters too.

The most important thing to keep in mind is respect. Respect the fact that your friend/co-worker is smart, capable, and wants this job as much as you do. We gave each other words of encouragement and were open about the fact that if one of us got it we would honestly be happy for them, albeit disappointed. At the end of the day, respect for each other is what will make this a good experience for both of you despite the outcome. It will also enable you to preserve the friendship after the outcome is decided.

The next piece of advice I would give you is one that many people might disagree with. Be transparent about the process with your friend/co-worker. My friend and I spoke openly about the aggressive rounds of interviews we had to undergo, and how each one went. We gave each other pointers and even talked about our individual skill sets that would make us the right ones for the job. While we competed professionally for the job, we did not take it personally. In fact, going through the experience together was a bonding time for us. As much as your friends and roommates can offer you support, to have someone who is actually going through the same process as you are can be an incredible source of strength.

The last piece of advice I would give you is to draw motivation from the competition. Going up against a friend will bring to light whether you really want that job or not. Interviewing can be a grueling process but it also teaches you a lot about yourself, and your strengths and weaknesses. To have a friend who is fighting the same battle, if handled respectfully and honestly, can be an opportunity for you to figure out what it is that you really want. You might realize after interview four, that your motivation has diminished and you’d rather bow out to give the opportunity to someone who really wants it. On the other hand, after each interview you might realize that this is the professional path you want to take and you will fight for it until the end.

Hopefully you will develop friendships with the people you spend most of your time with and while this enriches your work life it will inevitably lead to the sticky line between business etiquette and friendship boundaries. However, throughout the course of my career at NBC, I have found that honesty is really the best policy. At the end of the day, if you are open and honest with each other you will both come out of the experience a little wiser, a little stronger, and maybe even a little closer.

Have you ever competed with a friend for a job? What was that experience like? Tell us in the comments!

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I am going through the this right now. Unfortunately, I am the one that got the promotion and my friend/coworker/drama queen didn't. I would have to given her respect and congratulate her and realized that this was not the path for me, had she be the one to get the job. But she sat historically crying for hours at work, refuses to talk to me and says that I stole the job from her. It's been a rough few days. I have to work with her 3 times a week or so and it's frustrating and exhausting. Not that I really care, but it's taking the excitement I should be feeling completely away.


Great article. I am a career counselor at a small private college and suspect that a lot of our upcoming grads experience this sort of competition. I look forward to sharing your tips in our career blog. Thank you Claire!


This topic is especially relevant for soon-to-be grads. My friends are currently all applying for the same local jobs and it can get a little awkward. Thanks for the great advice!

Claire Smith

Claire is currently working in the Digital Media department of NBC Universal as a Senior Coordinator. She lives on the Upper East Side with two of her friends, and graduated from Loyola University Maryland in 2009 with a degree in Journalism. She spends her weekends exploring her passions for music, photography, and red wine.