Help! I Don't Want To Recommend My Friend For A Job

How to keep your friendship and reputation intact

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When it comes to work, there's nothing much more important than your credibility and reputation. It's up to you to maintain and uphold them, or risk losing potential opportunities down the road. So, what should you do when a friend asks you to recommend him for a position in your organization, but you'd rather stand on your head all day than refer him for the job?

It's a sticky situation, especially if you care about the friend and realize that referrals and recommendations from current employees are the best way to land jobs. In many cases, having an existing employee pass along your resume or support your candidacy is a surefire ticket to having a resume reviewed, so your friend is smart to ask for your help.

What are your choices when a good friend asks for your assistance landing a job he isn't well suited to do?
  1. Agree to help your friend, but make a lukewarm referral. Keep in mind, even if your referral is unenthusiastic, you're still risking your reputation if your friend can't perform. Even just passing along the resume puts you in the position of helping a non-qualified person access your employer, and you could look bad if it does not work out. Choose this option at your own risk and keep in mind: a lukewarm referral may do more harm than good.
  2. Explain to your friend why you don't think the job is a good fit. You may be able to avoid having an in-depth conversation about your friend's qualifications if you can find reasons she wouldn't enjoy the job. Is it a toxic workplace? Will the commute be really long? Is the salary too low? Will the work environment be ill-suited to her? Be clear about the negatives about the organization as they relate to her working at the same company as you and discourage her from applying.
  3. Come up with an excuse. Maybe you don't like to mix business with friendship, or you had a bad experience in the past recommending a friend and when it didn't work out, it hurt the friendship. You don't necessarily need to provide details, say she isn't likely to be a valuable employee or explain why you can't make a referral, but if you have a good reason to defer, you may be able to avoid hurting the friend's feelings with too much honesty.
  4. Help re-direct your friend to a different company or industry. Explain some reasons why you think he is not getting hired. Suggest he work with a coach to help identify how he can be more competitive in the job search. Sometimes, it's easier to hear tough news about your qualifications from someone who isn't close to you. You could do him a huge favor by spending time talking about how to identify target companies and discussing how to apply for appropriate jobs.
  5. Tell your friend honestly why you cannot refer her. This can be very difficult and uncomfortable, but it is possible that hearing some honest, constructive criticism from you may help your friend in the long run. It is just as likely that it could be the kiss of death for your friendship, so tread lightly and recognize that you do not have a responsibility to detail your friend's foibles, nor to explain exactly why you'd never suggest her for the job.
More from Miriam Salpeter
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