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I met my friend in my first year of college (Computer Science), so I can tell that I know how well he works and how knowledgeable he is.

He's a good friend, we chat occasionally, meet up to have coffee sometimes and he just told me that he was fired from his company. From what he told me, they didn’t give him that much work and accused him of bad performance, coincidence or not he didn’t like what he was doing and the company itself. He also told me that he didn’t get along with any of his co-workers and missed every single event that the company had organised, for instance the very own kick-off, team building, and more, simply because he didn’t want to go. I think that those events are very important to make a presence and people to know you.

Since he is now sending several CV he told me, a couple of times, that if he's desperate he is counting on me to send his CV to my current company, although I don’t really want to do it. I know he is not very good, from a technical POV, and has some issues getting along with new people. I don’t want to be a terrible friend, but I don’t want to be responsible if he gets the job in my company and fails as my manager would probably blame me and would likely jeopardise my position here.

How should I respond so that I don't hurt my job or my friendship?

My company currently has an open website with the current job openings listed. Most applicants can use it to send their resume, but my friend wants me to send it directly.

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    Do your company have any current openings? Can you refer him to the public portal, if your company have one? – Sourav Ghosh Mar 18 at 12:47
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    @SouravGhosh, yes we have a website that you can apply to the open offers. – Bino Mar 18 at 14:08
  • @Bino Very well, I have added an answer based on your comment. You mind to edit the question and add this info about availability of a public site for job applicant a part of the question itself? – Sourav Ghosh Mar 18 at 14:23
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    In case you decide to NOT recommend him (which is what i'd suggest), you may want to ask on interpersonal.stackexchange.com on how to best tell it to your friend. – Scrontch Mar 18 at 16:56
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15 Answers 15

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I have been in that situation, and not only once, it is definitely an ugly decision to make.
I decided to be open with my friend, and tell him that I don't feel like recommending him as I would only recommend people that I consider to be above average, and sorry, he isn't in my eyes.
It is not necessary to word it that he is generally not above average (even if you think so), you can say 'for the specific role/position this is about'. Also, if the role/position is quite different from your own (or yet unspecific), you have the option to say you wouldn't recommend anyone for that role/position, because you are not qualified to evaluate people for such roles/positions, and the hiring manager would see your recommendation as just that - a friend recommending a friend, without real conviction of his qualities.

In addition, it is ok to forward a resume to the hiring manager 'for info' with the note that you cannot evaluate the person. If you word it right, it doesn't come over as negative recommendation either - just that you don't know how good he is.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – user44108 Mar 19 at 7:55
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    I would strongly disagree with the second sentence here, though the rest of the answer is good. I would never tell a friend that I don't consider them to be above average. I know this isn't the Interpersonal Skills site, but that kind of a statement isn't something you'd say to a friend. – Alex K Mar 20 at 1:17
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I don’t want to be responsible if he gets the job in my company and fails as my manager would probably blame me and would likely jeopardise my position here.

If he gets the job, it won't be down to your recommendation. Recommended people still have to go through interviewing and tests etc.. If he makes it through all of these it is likely due to the hiring manager seeing something that you clearly do not. They cannot blame you when they hire someone you recommended.

That's like saying this guy is great he deserves the £60k+ p/y job and that person gets the job, that isn't how it works.

That being said:

How should I respond so that I don't hurt my job or my friendship?

Just tell him that your company does not do recommendations and you have to apply to roles as they are posted. This way you ensure he goes through the entire process or hiring and he can't really have an argument to it because it's just the way the company does it.

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    And it's always a good point to emphasize the difference between a recommendation and a referral. A recommendation means that you think this person is qualified and a good fit for the job. A referral just means that you are passing on their application/resume, but you admit you can't speak to their ability or not. – David K Mar 18 at 13:16
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    Recommended people still have to go through interviewing and tests etc Depends on the company. At my old company, word of mouth was seen as good enough for some positions, developer would have been one of them. I agree thats generally how it should work, but doesn't always. – Magisch Mar 18 at 14:06
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    @Magisch, in my current company we have that scenario. Word of mouth is very strong, and you don't need to the tests. Thanks for the comment Twyxz! – Bino Mar 18 at 14:11
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    "tell him that your company does not do recommendations" may lead to the scenario of the friend getting the job through "normal" means and then finding out that they do, in fact, hire based on recommendations. In which case it will be clear to the friend that OP simply didn't want to recommend them. – Alexandre Aubrey Mar 18 at 16:06
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    "`If he gets the job, it won't be down to your recommendation." This is not necessarily true. At my company if I were to recommend someone for a developer position they would go through a very minimal interview and probably be hired. – Clonkex Mar 18 at 22:17
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As you clarified in the comment, your company has a public portal for job applications.

Mention to your friend:

We have this job portal and we're encouraged to inform any potential employee to check for the openings and apply online. This way, the process is smoother and unbiased. I'll send you the link, please let me know if you need any help / clarification in accessing that website.

This way, it's a win-win,

  • You don't need to associate yourself with the application or the recruitment process, so whatever happens with the applicant (hired or not), will not be referred back to you.
  • You will have your friend also happy.

Think it in this way: Whether you like it or not, your friend can still apply and get a job in your organization from using the very same portal. in this scenario, you're the one only "providing" him/her with the info (which he/she could have anyways found if they checked the company website, maybe), so you're still in the "good-book".

  • If your hiring process is like the on at my company, there's an opportunity after you've got the job to name an employee who told you about the position, so that they get the referral bonus. If that's the case it works even better: if they don't get hired, nobody knows you were involved, but if they do, then you get the credit. – anaximander Mar 18 at 15:48
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    This is the correct answer in my opinion. Whenever in this situation, tell the friend to submit the CV themselves. They can even mention that they know you if they want to at some point. If your employer asks you about your friend, you can talk about their personal qualities but simply state that you haven't worked enough with him to evaluate his professional skills. – Jonast92 Mar 18 at 16:34
  • What if the friend persists on nepotism? – testing Mar 18 at 16:57
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    it's also been pointed out in comments that word-of-mouth is highly valued in the hiring process. If the friend gets hired through the portal and realizes this, it will be clear to him that "go fill the form" is equivalent to "I didn't want to recommend you". – Alexandre Aubrey Mar 18 at 17:22
  • @AlexandreAubrey I don't believe anyone will go looking for the process once they are hired (they'd be happy). If they are not hired, they don't get to know the "culture" internal to the organization. So, it does not really matter what it boils down to. – Sourav Ghosh Mar 19 at 7:09
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After reading the question it's not clear to me if the question is about a recomendation letter or a simple CV delivery.

If the latter, that's not unusual and a hiring managers should be used to this.

You could take the CV and say something like:

Hi [hiring manager], here is a friend’s CV for [position]. Please don't take this as an endorsement, it's just a friend that asked me to pass on their CV.

This has happened to me a couple of times; not sure if it’s relevant but my location is Western Europe

  • Or, you don't even need to deliver the CV to the hiring manager. Take the CV, dump it, and tell the guy: "I handed it to the hiring manager, but due to the number of CVs they get, they may not get back to you." A bit of a white lie, but it helps separate friendship from work. This does, however, make thing a bit more uncomfortable if the friend starts asking for updates. – dKen Mar 19 at 10:27
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    I don't think this is a good idea. First, it's hard to hide your opinions about your friend and second, you will most likely be asked to rate your friend – something OP doesn't want. Just redirect to the job portal. – knallfrosch Mar 19 at 12:25
  • I don't have your expercience, but i think this could sound like "i don't recommend him", like that you don't think he's good enough. In that case you would be not only not recommending him but also making him look bad. – Sebastian Aguerre Mar 19 at 13:10
  • @pytago the OP is not about hiding opinions with colleagues but about keeping both a friend and a job. I have a couple of friends I don't want to work with because of many reason; if requested I would say something polite but true to discourage a prospective hiring manager. In my opinion a white lie would be far worse and more likely to backfire in the long run. – Paolo Mar 19 at 16:30
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As you've pointed out in the comments of other answers, your company has a public portal for job applications but word-of-mouth and recommendations go a long ways in the application process.

"Word of mouth is very strong, and you don't need to the tests."

This complicates things, because a recommendation from you may very well lead to a hiring decision that would be blamed on you later rather than on a recruitment team.

It further complicates things because if you point him towards the application portal with the claim your company doesn't do recommendations, he may get the job through the portal and it won't take him long to learn that the company does in fact value word-of-mouth recommendations. It doesn't take a genius to figure out at that point that you never wanted to recommend him.

The best solution is to tell him you'll pass his resume along, and make it clear to your supervisor that this is a referral, not a recommendation.

something along the lines of

Hi Mr. Boss, someone I know is looking for a job... I've never worked with him as a colleague so I can't attest to whether or not he'd be a good fit here but he asked me to drop off his resume.

It's a way to keep your friend happy and make sure the hiring decision isn't based on your input.

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    He can sidestep the second complication by not mentioning recommendations and simply encouraging him to go through the portal. If he gets hired and finds out about the culture Bino can give an excuse like "I believe in merits not recommendations so I do not give recommendations to anyone." or "I prefer a level playing field so we get the best candidate for the job, which since you got it means you were the best." to mitigate any fallout. – Anketam Mar 18 at 22:31
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Recommendations are not binary.

Everyone has strengths. Start by identifying your friend's. Build the basis of your recommendation around those. Everyone also has weaknesses. Friends find a way to help friends recognize and work on their weaknesses. This is the ideal time for you to step up and help your friend.

Honesty doesn't have to be brutal. Ideally, honesty will simultaneously serve the interests of you, your company, and your friend.

Let those within your company make the call based upon your balanced assessment, including both the good and the bad, reasonably and fairly presented.

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    Linked answer is not brutal. Honesty is not brutal. It can be cruel, but not brutal. And honestly, if a friendship cannot survive honesty, was it really a friendship to begin with? – rkeet Mar 19 at 7:48
  • I see two problems with this answer, even though I've up voted it. One: I don't feel they are really deep friends, more like colleagues, pals, gaming bros. So maybe the guy is just not willing to spend energy on this for his friend. Two: his evaluation is that the guy won't be a good fit for the company. Why would he or HR hire someone who already has red flags raised? It's counter productive. – Spidey Mar 19 at 10:34
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    @Spidey: Friend is OP's term, which we should accept along with its implication of care on both parties' parts. The point of my answer is to say that honesty and imperfection need not stand at odds with friendship and recommendations. – kjhughes Mar 19 at 12:49
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    @rkeet: I used brutal to emphasize that such cruelty is unnecessary. – kjhughes Mar 19 at 12:50
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Tell him you don't do recommendations as a general rule.

If he asks why, just say you don't like to be held responsible for other people, especially not friends.

It might be a white lie if you do in fact do recommendations but:

  1. You won't damage your rep with the company because you haven't recommended him.
  2. You won't damage your relation with him because you haven't made it personal.

I'm not recommending to lie in general. I'm recommending to white lie in this specific situation to protect his reputation at the company and maintain his friendship. There's a difference between "white lies" and lying.

  • There is no reason to lie to your friend. There are many better approaches on this very page that don't require lying, so this gets my downvote. – Wildcard Mar 18 at 22:44
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    Started of strong with say you don't like to be held responsible for other people, especially not friends (if it is true, that is). Then recommending lying to friends. Just no. -1 – rkeet Mar 19 at 7:46
  • Maybe you should change "Tell him you don't do recommendations" to simply "don't do recommendations". Then it won't be a suggestion to lie. – Dmitry Grigoryev Mar 19 at 9:55
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    @Wildcard and rkeet. Thanks for your comments guys. I didn't think my answer would be perceived like that. Interesting stuff. I've added some clarification to my answer because I think it's been misinterpreted. – Jamie Butterworth Mar 19 at 10:20
  • Seeing your edit, I don't think you understand what a while lie is. If the OP recommended their friend, the HR told the OP they won't hire such an idiot, and the OP then lied to their friend that the position was already filled, that would be a white lie. Covering up their own unwillingness to help is a regular lie. – Dmitry Grigoryev Mar 19 at 10:30
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As hard as it sounds but generally I recommend you to separate friendship with business.

If it is a very good friend you can help him to get a connection to your company, but you can tell your manager or the recruiter that a friend wanted you to give them his CV. Whether he wants to or not he has to complete a job interview which he can not skip just because you are friends.

If they are satisfied with him and need someone they will offer him a job, otherwise they won't. Just that easy.

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If you're going to turn down the request (which I believe is the right thing to do), remember that you don't owe your friend an explanation, nor is explaining why you refused is going to help. In fact, spelling out your friend's weaknesses to him will damage your friendship much more than just saying "no".

If you don't honor recommendation requests as a matter of principle, you may tell your friend that. Otherwise stick to generic sentences (e.g. about not mixing friends and work). And don't ever use arguments which may invite your friend to try harder, or commit you to offer help under a certain condition (like "I have no time right now", or "I would if you had experience as a manager", unless not having any experience as a manager is the only real reason).

  • I would "recommend" with my personal feedback. If the company is willing to follow up, that's ok, you were honest and they will do the interview process normally and try to check the facts while doing it. – Spidey Mar 19 at 10:37
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    @Spidey I'm not sure what kind of personal feedback I could give to someone who "is not very good from a technical POV" and "has some issues getting along with new people", which would not result in a question "so, why did you bring his CV to my desk?" – Dmitry Grigoryev Mar 19 at 11:53
  • @DmitryGrigoryev you are right, but he is my friend. And i like to help my friends, don't you? – Bino Mar 19 at 12:17
  • @Bino Sure I like helping friends, I just don't do that kind of help specifically. – Dmitry Grigoryev Mar 19 at 14:32
  • @DmitryGrigoryev you would be helping your friend as much as you could, while being honest with the company as well. You are not lying about him, you are just giving your opinion. If the company thinks he is a good match and they should hire him, that's ok. Maybe the OP even has the wrong impression of his friend and will have the opportunity to learn it differently. – Spidey Mar 20 at 12:06
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"Friend wants my recommendation but I don't want to"

"How should I respond so that I don't hurt my job or my friendship?"

I would help your friend do some introspection, in a way that protects you and helps him take inventory of what he offers:

"Dear Enrique Iglesias, of course I am happy to help you. My company is very strict when hiring new developers, even more when they come from internal channels. The best way to make sure you make an impression is to carefully match your past work and achievements for the specific position you are looking for. Go on our website, find the role you are interested in and then write a few examples of past achievements in those areas. Another big requirement is teamwork: it's important for all developers to be social and involved, it's a bit of an unwritten rule. In your CV and cover letter you will also need to make examples of how you interacted with your colleague, especially beyond what was required for your main tasks. Once we have this, I'll be happy to forward it to the hiring manager of the position you are interested in. Anything less than this won't work".

This will help your friend and protect you. All the selling is done by what he writes. Maybe just mention the hiring manager that your friend is very enthusiastic and will discuss in detail what he achieved, and how.

If he still gets hired, it means that he's either qualified, or good enough to pass the dysfunctions of the selection process.

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You could try to get around this decision by trying to talk your friend out of applying at your company:

  • Tell him about all the kick-off meetings, team building events and more where one is expected to show up and how bad it looks if you aren't super cheery and social at them
  • Point out that you are using a technology stack which isn't really his skillset
  • Warn him that some of your coworkers have exactly the same character traits he always complained about
  • Mention anything else he might not like about working at your company
  • +1 - you needn't even try to talk him out of it, just be upfront about the things that he dislikes being central to the role and that his current skillset isn't a good fit – Dave Gremlin Mar 19 at 17:23
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A simple solution to handle giving recommendation to people you doubt is to give a sample task and write recommendation based on their performance. In programming it's simpler than in, for example, management. Just provide your friend a couple of puzzles depending on their specialization. One way to justify this approach from your friend's point of view is that you don't know what you can recommend, cuz, for example, you didn't work together for long time(or never). If your friend later fails with your recommendation you have a backup as your test results, so nobody will be able to blame you.

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  1. Tell your friend you would be happy to submit his CV for him. Do not discuss the possibility of a "recommendation". If your friend raises the topic, explain to him your concerns, and most importantly give him action items to follow so that he can rectify the issues you see with his performance. This will help him both in this particular instance and also in future in his own job search. Make sure to make your feedback objective, rather than subjective. Saying "you don't know XXX technology well enough; for example we use features YYY and ZZZ which I don't think you have a good enough handle on" is much better than "I don't think you're good enough".

  2. Submit your friend's resume, but do not give a recommendation. A simple "my friend is looking for a job, he asked me to submit his resume, here it is" is sufficient. Your boss is not likely to ask further questions.

  3. Your friend will still have to go through the normal interview process where people independent from you will have to give their input, and see if they agree with your assessment of his skill level. You will likely not be included in this process, as a matter of conflict of interest. Then the rest is up to him (and them) as to whether he gets the job.

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There might be a different route. Some HR/Managers will not accept recommendations anyway. They will tell you that your friend should hand in his application through the usual channels and merely add a reference to you as a referer inside the company.

This approach will reduce the impact of your "recommendation" and allow the HR department to do their job. Only when they see fit, they will contact you and ask for further information regarding the applicant.

So regarding your current situation, you could simply say that your friend should follow that route. This would be the "easiest" route for you.

If you want to be more or less honest to your friend, you could go to your manager, say that you have a friend, who wants to apply and ask if it was ok, if he'd apply through the normal channels with a reference to you. That way you could tell your friend that you contacted your manager and the result was that he should use the normal channels with a reference to you.

The end result in either case should be the same though.

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Check if your employer offers a hiring bonus to employees who assist in hiring people out of their circle. Many employers do this, and if yours does, then it makes it simple to forward your friend's CV not as a recommendation, but in hope of getting the bonus if he is successfully hired.

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