How can I avoid recommending my friend for a job?
Q. One of my close friends has been out of work for a while. She just found out that we have a couple of job openings at my office and has asked me to forward her resume to management – along with a good word. The problem is, I don’t think she’d be very good at either position and I’m not comfortable recommending her. How can I avoid losing a friend without compromising my professional reputation?
A. I understand your natural reluctance to say something to your friend. Preserving your friendship and your professional reputation are both essential. Challenging as such a situation may be, if you are to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39), you simply treat your friend as you would want to be treated. Ask yourself, “Would I want my friend to candidly provide perspective on my professional strengths and improvement opportunities or would I want my friend to avoid the conversation?” Those questions lead to an easy answer for most of us.
However, my guess is that many people in your situation would submit the resume without a recommendation and avoid revealing that detail. It’s the easy way out, but not a particularly honest or “friendly” approach, is it?
Therefore, let’s remain focused on how you would want to be treated. Likely, you would want a sincere friend of yours to find a quiet place to have a discussion, perhaps at a coffee shop when things aren’t crowded. That’s easy. Next, it is likely you would want your friend to begin by saying something such as, “Jan, as a candidate for these jobs, you have some pros and cons, and I am going to offer some feedback from an insider’s perspective.” Explain the job requirements and tell her about her pros and cons as you see her candidacy. Finally, ask her candidly if she sees herself being successful. If she’s self-aware enough, she may realize that she isn’t a good fit. If you need to continue, you now have a direct opportunity to provide some constructive feedback. As you are doing so, just be certain to include ample time focusing on the positive skills or potential that you also see.
Finally, if you don’t believe you and your friend have a strong enough relationship for this conversation, then save the friendship and your professional reputation by submitting the resume without the recommendation and let the chips fall where they may. But then ask yourself if this person is really a “close friend.”