February 1, 2012
If you can't truly recommend someone for a job, then don't
Q: A person I worked with at my last job was let go, and he just requested I write him a recommendation. This co-worker was not the best employee, and I do not want to write him a recommendation, but I do feel bad he is unemployed. What should I do?
A: The short answer to this painfully awkward situation is, tell the truth.
“References really matter,” says Dan Schawbel, author of “Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future” and a personal-branding expert. “Whether they’re written on LinkedIn or if it’s a phone call reference, it can make a real difference, so you need to be truthful.”
There are several reasons for this, aside from the basic fact that lying is wrong.
From a selfish standpoint, you put your own reputation on the line when you recommend someone for a job. If you vouch for a person you know isn’t qualified, and that person doesn’t work out, the company won’t trust you. It’s a small business world; why sully your own image?
So, how do you break it to the person seeking a reference?
Schawbel suggested identifying the person’s strengths and weaknesses, and then explaining why the particular job might not be a strong fit.
“Tell them you’d only feel comfortable recommending them for the right opportunities,” Schawbel says. “Say, ‘Hey, I think you’d be a better fit for a different type of role.’ ”
There’s no easy way to do that, but by kindly offering an honest assessment of the person’s strengths and weaknesses you can help that person avoid mistakes.
Rex Huppke writes for the Chicago Tribune. Send him questions at email@example.com.
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