I'm a software developer at a respectable international company. I've worked there for exactly two months now. I got the job after I finished my Bachelor's in Computer Science.

A classmate of mine from CS is continuing school to get a Master's Degree, but is looking for a summer job for 2015. He's going to apply to the company I work at.


Obviously I want to support that, and do the whole "put in a good word" deal. What is the best way for me, as a relatively new employee, to go about this?

The catch

One of the things I've considered, is the fact that my friend was a very skilled programmer (relative to the class) by the time we finished our degrees. We worked on a couple of projects together, so I know his work habits and technical prowess pretty well. In fact, at least at that time, it's safe to say he was better than me.

Is this something I should bring up? I have no problem admitting that he at least was a better programmer than myself. (At this point, since I've settled into the new position, and experienced a steep learning curve with the company's chosen software stacks, I would definitely "out-code" him.)

But could my admitting his previous superiority bite me in the ass later on?

Also, what other tips do you have for the general good-word inputs?


  • Saying that he has exceptional skills is EXTREMELY unlikely to hurt you (unless the claim is false, of course). Especially if all he's looking for is a summer job.
    – keshlam
    Commented Nov 8, 2014 at 2:54

3 Answers 3


What you do, can only help him to get as far as the interview, that is, being picked out of the pile. From there, it is all upon him, and not based on what you said or did. He has to demonstrate himself during the interview, and there is nothing you can do from that point to increase or decrease his changes.

Basically, there are two options. 1. He gets hired, and people might thank you for bringing him under their radar. 2. He does not get hired, but probably not based on his programming skills. I don't see any way this backfires on you.

The company I work for has a policy in place that you get a bonus if they select somebody for an interview, that applied their via me. If they eventually get hired, the bonus will be even higher. In the end, you saved them quite some recruiting and interviewing work. Actually, my manager already asked whether I known people that might be interested in working with us. Be sure to check if such a policy is in place with your company, it is probably written somewhere.

  1. A good software engineer is first of all a good problem solver. If you are a poor at solving problems and you code, then your ability to code is to programming as knowing how to type is to writing. I don't want poor problem solvers on my team. They can call themselves software developers elsewhere than on my team.

  2. If you are a good problem solver and he is a good problem solver, then the two of you have something to talk about and a baseline to work from. If you are not a good problem solver and he is, he'll be back to running rings around you once he learns the technology. And it won't take him too long to do it.

  3. Whether you decide to recommend him depends on your attitude toward each other. Are you in some kind of career competition with each other? Do you see your career goals potentially jeopardized by his presence? Is it a zero-sum game for either of you? Can you both see working with each other in a way that's mutually beneficial? Is the vision of both of you helping each other and backing each other up appealing to both of you? The two of you are in a much better position to get these answers and evaluate them than we on this site are.

Having said that, let your classmate take the initiative and ask you for support and tell you how he wants you to go about supporting him. Feel free to volunteer to him in what ways you can support him, so that the two of you work out an approach that both of you are either happy with, or can live with.

Always keep in mind that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, yours included. I am well aware that I have enough good intentions of mine to build a superhighway to hell :) Be wary of your good intentions, as I am wary of mine :)


If you say he was better, it will be used in the decission to take him in or not.

In later decissions about offering him full employment or promoting him over you the actual measurable work he does will be relevant, not what you said years ago.

But why not just say he is a very good programmer without comparing him to yourself?

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