questionswhat do you do when a bad worker asks to give a…

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If the reference is confidential, tell what you know. If it's not confidential, be vague.

EDIT: "He left on good terms." = "We're glad he left.".
"Work was never a problem to him." = "He never put out any effort.".

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The reference you give this friend will sooner or later reflect back on you. I'd suggest not doing it. It's clear you're not comfortable about it, or you wouldn't be asking this question here. He can't be too close as a friend (I'm guessing), but I recognize that you may have friends in common.

Just tell him that you don't feel comfortable, and that it isn't as though he worked for you, and you would prefer not to do it. Without knowing the specific situation (how close you are, how many friends in common, and so on) I can't really say much more than that, but I really wouldn't do it.

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I've been in this situation a few times; fortunately, the individuals were not friends, just mediocre subordinates. I've found it's better to let what you don't say speak louder, similar to @jsimsace 's suggestion.

Best suggestion, stick to the middle ground. No need to be overly effusive, just answer their questions, if there are any, and focus on your friend's redeeming qualities while skirting the less savory bits.

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How close is the friend? Can you hedge with the friend and recommend they ask someone they have worked with more recently? If you choose to do it. I would also be truthful but vague. I think that leaves the impression you are looking for without lying.

Without knowing more details I would answer along the lines of " I only worked with Patti for a short time." or "Outside work, Patti likes to...". Maybe something like "I have known Patti for x years but I only see her at the bar. "?

I was asked to do a reference for a family member. They are much younger than me and we were never close. When the employer called, I told them I told the same. They did get the job and it did work out.

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You know, I really don't think we worked together long enough for me to give you a fair recommendation. Might be better if you ask someone else.

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I never give recommendations due to the legal ramifications. Working in HR has taught me some things.

Even if another company contacts you to ask if a person has worked for you, it's best to just state yes or no and stick to the facts like, "That person worked here from September 2007 to November 2009" and that's it. If they ask if they were a good employee, don't answer that. If you say yes and they hire the person, you might be sued by the hiring company if they don't work out. If you say no, the employee might sue you. This doesn't mean they will win if it goes to court but you don't want that kind of trouble.

I'll give a personal reference. By that, I mean I will tell a potential employer what kind of person I think someone is but will not tell them anything about how they do their current job.

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Honestly, you should just politely decline even giving a reference. It's much better than giving a bad one, and you aren't going to put yourself on the spot when it's clear you think the guy shouldn't be hired.

Just tell the person you've thought about it, and based on the short time period you've worked together you just don't feel comfortable giving him the solid reference he needs.

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Honesty is the best policy. If you can't be honest, don't do it.

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I had this happen once, the guy had not asked before just using me as a reference. It turned out he had used me as a reference and name drop to get an interview with someone that knew me and he had not said a word to me about it at all.

I was friends with the guy but I certainly had questions about job/skill set nor would I have ever recommended him personally.

I was mad enough that I went out of my way to call the hiring manager and say what I really thought and assure him that I would never hire him with a long list of examples of why. This was a customer facing role and he was not the best face of a company let’s just put it that way.

Anyway it was at a different job then I have now but end result he didn’t get the job and he and I aren’t really friends anymore. Though I did go out of the way to provide him some honest feedback and tell him why I wasn’t comfortable giving a reference. He didn’t love that conversation but I hope he at least heard me and sought to improve it.

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The best one I've seen goes as follows:
If you've agreed to give reference, when called by the hiring manager, simply state "I promised XXX that I would provide a reference" the manager should understand the implications.

j5 j5
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@djbowman: Wow something similar happened to me. I was working the front and someone I'd never seen before asks for an application, fills it out, and hands me an application with someone else's name on it. The name on the application this skeezy delinquet I knew through high school. And the guy had written me in as his reference from the company, without ever asking me. I ripped up the application and threw it away after the rando who brought the application in left. I later found out we were supposed to keep every application that came through, but nothing ever came of it. And I think my manager would've understood since they were not turning in the application themselves and had lied about their references.