You feed your friend’s cat when she’s out of town, and you’re always more than happy—OK, willing—to give her a ride to the airport when she needs one. But, when a friend asks you to give him a recommendation with your current employer? That request might give you pause.
Of course, this scenario is easy to navigate when you’re certain that your pal is a perfect fit for your company’s open position. You’ll march his or her resume into the HR department with a smile on your face and a skip in your step.
But, what the heck do you do when you aren’t so confident in your friend’s abilities? Can you simply say no when he or she asks you to put in a good word? Should you risk your professional reputation for the sake of friendship? Should you hide on your couch and binge watch Netflix until the whole situation just disappears?
Slow down! There’s no need to hibernate in a panic yet. Here are four simple steps to pull you through this delicate matter—without losing your friend.
1. Determine Why You Feel This Way
First things first, you need to determine exactly why you’re hesitant to pass along a solid recommendation on your friend’s behalf. Is he or she simply not a good fit for that particular position—or your company in general? Have you heard too many stories (from her!) about her habit of using “sick” days after having a few too many happy hour margaritas on a Tuesday?
Or, are you feeling somewhat selfish and don’t want to share the perks and bragging rights of your amazing company with someone in your same circle of friends? Hey, we all get a little greedy at times.
It’s important that you take some time for self-reflection in order to figure out your specific rationale for feeling uncomfortable about putting in a good word. This will help you identify your best course of action for handling the whole situation.
2. Weigh Your Options
There’s usually more than one solution to every problem—and the same holds true here. Your options range from putting your hesitations aside and passing along your friend’s resume (with a disclaimer to HR that, while you know the person socially, you can’t vouch for his or her professional abilities) to being completely honest with your pal about your hesitations.
Sit down and consider all of the potential methods for addressing this issue. Is there a different position within your company that might be a better fit for your friend? Can you agree to just pass along the resume, but explain that you’ll be excusing yourself from the hiring process?
Imagine yourself actually following through with each of your options, and let the scenario play out in your head. What’s the absolute worst that could happen if you went that route? This exercise will (hopefully) make it pretty obvious which choice is the right one—no matter how difficult it might be.
3. Set Your Ground Rules
No, life isn’t always fair. But, in this case, you need to make a conscious effort to keep things as impartial as possible. Bear in mind that once you do something for one friend, another will likely anticipate the same treatment. If you don’t play by those rules, prepare yourself for the firestorm of friend drama that’ll undoubtedly ensue.
So, now’s a great time to set a personal policy for these types of situations. These guidelines will help to steer you through any similarly tricky circumstances in the future.
Perhaps you’ve decided that you’ll simply never pass along a recommendation for a friend. Or, maybe you’re comfortable with delivering his resume without saying anything about his merit or qualifications. Define some rules that make you comfortable—and then stick to them like your life depends on it.
4. Break the News
Whether the news is good or bad, communication is vital. So, once you’ve settled on your course of action, it’s time to loop your friend in on what you’ve decided. There’s no sugarcoating it—this likely won’t be an easy or comfortable conversation.
Remember how your grade school teachers would always preach that honesty is the best policy? Turns out that sentiment extends beyond the walls of your first grade classroom. So, be forthcoming with your friend. Of course, you don’t need to tell her that you think she’s terrible and that no self-respecting employer would ever want to hire her. There’s a difference between honest and brutal, after all.
Instead, explain that while you value your relationship, you simply aren’t comfortable with mixing business and friendship, so you won’t be speaking to your employer. Or, that you’ll be passing along the resume, but won’t be getting involved in the process too closely—and therefore won’t be able to keep tabs on how it’s progressing.
Don’t be afraid to seek out any alternatives that might help to cushion the blow. Did you recently see a job posting with a different company that you know she’d love? Can you bring him as a guest to an upcoming networking event you’re attending? They aren’t necessarily substitutes for a glowing reference, but they’ll show your pal that you care about his or her professional success—without needing to worry about marring your reputation and good word.
Turning down your friend’s request for a recommendation with your current employer is awkward. And, unfortunately, there isn’t a magic pill that’ll make it any easier. But, following these steps will help you navigate the delicate matter and escape with your friendship—and your professional reputation—unscathed!
Photo of eye courtesy of Shutterstock.
TopicsFriendship , References and Recommendations , Work Relationships , Communication , Career Advice , Syndication
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, self-development, and the freelance life. In addition to writing for The Muse, she's also the Career Editor for The Everygirl, a columnist for Inc., and a contributor all over the web. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her rescued terrier mutt or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author