WWYD: The Referral

In this installment of “What Would You Do?,” a friend asks another friend for a job referral.

The company I work for is doing really well and is expanding its operations. My boss asked all the employees to reach into our networks to see if we knew anyone who wanted to join our team, so I posted on Facebook that our company was hiring, and that anyone who would be interested should get in touch with me for details.

One of the people who messaged me was this guy I knew in college, and he’s been unemployed for a while. He’s notoriously late and unreliable (and was fired from his last job for being late and unreliable), and honestly, I don’t think he’d be a good fit for the job. I waffled on whether or not I should give him the information, but felt like I had no other choice. He said he was going to mention me when applying for the job, and now I’m worried it’ll reflect poorly on me if he gets the job and is really bad at it. — C.

The first thing I would have done would have been to not post that job opening on Facebook. I would have thought about people I knew who might have been a good fit for whatever jobs were opening up, and reached out to them directly. I see the crowdsourcing value in a Facebook post, but it can also create a touchy situation like the one you’re in now.

When I was in college, someone I met in study group told me she was applying for a job on campus and since I was already working at said job, she asked me if she could mention that she knew me in her cover letter. I said yes. Later, when my supervisors asked me if I would recommend her, I told the truth: That I didn’t really know her that well outside of class, and that they should just choose the applicant they felt was the best for the job. She didn’t get the job, but things worked out—she mentioned later to me that she found another job off campus.

So if I were C., and my boss came up to me to ask about this guy, I would just tell the truth. I wouldn’t throw him under the bus, but I would say something like, “I know him from college, but am unsure if he’d be the right fit. I’ll leave it up to your discretion.” Hopefully, this boss will be able to root out the issues during the interview process.


Email me your WWYD experiences to me with “WWYD” in the subject line. See previous installments.



17 Comments / Post A Comment

Megano! (#124)

I mean, you could lie, and say the position’s already filled. But if you do give him the info and they ask you about him, just tell the truth and he won’t get it, and then all you have to say is that they gave the position to someone else.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

You might get the guy the interview, but he has to get the job and keep it himself. But I know how you feel. I have a few friends and relatives I won’t refer to when I hear of an opening because I know how unreliable they are.

Yeah, I would send him the info and then, if you were asked about him, give your honest assessment. I’ve had people I barely known refer to me in a cover letter – I had no idea they were interested in working in my field, so I had nothing positive (or negative, just indifference) to add when my boss asked me about the applicant.

I would maybe post it on facebook though, and just hope only the reliable people I knew would apply!

Yeah when I asked for a referral at my current job from a friend of a friend, she said “You can mention me but I don’t really know you so I wouldn’t have much to say” and it was fine. I wasn’t offended.

In this case it might be better to just do as the other comments suggest and give your honest assessment (or no opinion) when/if your boss asks. If he’s as flaky as you say he most likely won’t make it through the application process.

probs (#296)

Give your boss your honest assessment, I’d say. No sense risking even a little bit of your reputation on a known flake.

thatgirl (#1,965)

I had HR ask me if I knew anyone who wanted an internship at my agency. I posted on facebook, and three people replied: one younger sister of a friend who I’ve only met a few times, but who I know is a bright and responsible person who would do well. I passed her resume along. I also had two other people send me their resumes, but both of them are total flakes. So I just said “thanks for the resume, we’ll see what HR decides to do!”

The girl whose resume I did pass along is a great fit, and may be doing an internship here next summer when she gets back from a study abroad program. I feel pretty confident in my decision.

AlliNYC (#1,725)

@thatgirl I feel like that’s a really good way to do it! The only drawback is IFFFFFFF the OP’s acquaintance calls the HR department directly and asks if they’ve seen his resume and they are all “uhhh, what resume?” and she gets found out.

But I feel like that’s probably unlikely, given that he’s a flake.

la_di_da (#1,425)

Someone applied and got an interview at my company, independent of me, but then mentioned to the interviewer that she knew me. Best line ever if you -really- don’t want to work with a person, but you don’t want to look like a gossip. “Yes I know, xxx, we did ___ together. I have reservations about her fit at the company, however.” Someone asks you to clarify, you can just say, “Without resorting to gossip, I have reservations.” You look classy, and they’re going to think again about said unreliable (or in my case, generally terrible, person).

aetataureate (#1,310)

@la_di_da Yeah, a related WWYD I’d be interested in is along those lines. I went to a tiny college, so I know just about anyone who went there within a certain range of years. Someone applied where I work and the person doing the hiring asked me about the applicant — “Do you know this person?” I know the person strictly socially and had a hard time deciding what to say and where the boundaries were, since I’m on friendly, informal terms with the hiring person.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@aetataureate I feel like that’s the easiest situation — “I know X socially, but not well. We’ve never worked together, so I don’t know what their work is like.” What’s hard is when you have worked with someone you are friends with, but would NOT recommend them for a job.

Fig. 1 (#632)

Nice to see all you ISTJs are blocking perfectly nice ENFPs like me from getting a job! **piles more paper on her desk** Where is my pen, I left it here somewhere. Ooh something shiny!

Good call Mike, I’d do the same.

Also, creepy timing – I’m working o a post about the dangers of suggesting friends for jobs! (Hypocritical of me – I’ve done it a few times to great results – but when it goes wrong, it can go so horribly wrong.)

EM (#1,012)

I’m sure it’ll be fine- either he’ll use you as a reference and you can be tactful but honest about your reservations, or they’ll check his actual references and they’ll be like “That guy? We fired him for being a bad employee.” Worry more about your company if they hire him and don’t notice he’s a poor fit.

Worker Parasite (#2,292)

I had the flip of this bite me in the ass years ago. Applied for a job – former coworker worked at the company I was applying for. He’s a total flake, I did not tell him I was applying. Somehow he got wind of my application and put in a good word for me. I did not get called for an interview until 6 months later when they were desperate for someone, and I got the job. After a few weeks on the job my new boss said “I can’t believe you’re friends with ‘E’, you’re so unlike him.” It was all I could do to not throttle ‘E’!

ennaenirehtac (#199)

My feeling is that I don’t really want to block someone from employment because there could be extenuating circumstances I don’t know about (what if the guy just suffered a bout of major depression but is ready to get back on his feet and work hard?). So, rather than say I have reservations or whatever, if asked I tend to say something like, “I know he’s a nice guy, but I’ve never worked with him so I couldn’t say what he’s like to work with” or something along those lines. Most likely his own track record will speak for itself; what’s the point of adding to that?

lizard (#2,615)

Maybe the poor guy has changed his ways? all that time of un-employment can do that to someone. he needed a fire under his ass. Just tell your boss he is a friend of a friend and you dont necessarily know him from adam. treat it like a non-endorsement

acid burn (#113)

I feel like if somebody says “Can I say that I know you?” that’s one thing, and I’d do (and have done) what Mike said. But I’ve also been in a position where people I mostly know socially but sort of worked with as a student have specifically said “Can I use you as a reference,” and that’s where I feel super awkward.

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