How to Refuse to Refer a Friend

Networking is about using the people you have aready have a relationship with to help you get a foot in the door and many people actually get jobs through referrals.

Many large global corporations actually have some sort of employee referral program as it helps abbreviate the hiring process, creates a welcoming company culture and makes employees feel good that they helped a friend or family member. It’s not all new hires and roses though, employee referral programs open up people for some of the most awkward social interactions in the history of…well social interactions: the refusal of a referral. We all have that one friend that is a blast to hang out with, but isn’t exactly cut out for the corporate world. So how do you refuse to refer a friend?

See Also: How to Give a Negative Employee Reference

1. The Truth

be honest

The truth will set you free…quite literally in this case. I know that truth crap is overused, even abused but hear me out. If they are a good enough friend they might even take it as constructive criticism, because telling them the truth involves telling them why they would be a bad fit for your company. Tell them in an extremely diplomatic way; remember you want this to come across as constructive criticism, not a personal attack/rejection, that could help them become more employable if they worked on their professional skills a little more first. You can even tell them that they should try to become more consistent with their obligations. Which is a pretty good segue for:

2. Psy Ops

Otherwise known as propaganda, it has been a technic used since the beginning of warfare. What does this have to do with rejecting a friend’s request of a referral? A lot more than you think…by slowly convincing them that the job would make them miserable. Remember the little part above about character assassinating your friend? Well instead consider all the things that make them awesome to hang out with: their love for life, laughs and drinking with their shirt off. Tell them that the job is a stuffy corporate affair where nobody laughs, people get reprimanded for loving life too vocally and nobody in the history of the company has ever been allowed to drink without their shirt off even after working hours (they have an image to uphold after all). If that fails you will have to go into second phase psy ops. Tell your friend that you are going for a drink with a few coworkers and it would be a good idea to come along and network…now gather the most miserable perma-complaining individuals in the office and ask them out for a drink. Sure it’s a little manipulative but think about all the awkwardness that you will be avoiding….it’s for the greater good.  All you have to do to start a blazing pyre of company hate is one spark…something as innocent as “Man today was rough” will start a full fledge hate rally for the job, the boss, some coworkers (“that are just the worse, who brings cupcakes every day?”), even the building the company is housed in. Sit back and enjoy as your friends enthusiasm for getting a referral slowly crumbles away. At the end of the night ask your friend “So how fun are those guys! Aren’t you looking forward to working with them?” which in a drunken haze your friend should spin on his/her heal and run in the opposite direction screaming in terror.

3. Appeal


Appeal to your friend’s empathy, let them know the delicacy of your situation or position, tell them that your boss has it in for you and he would hire anyone that you referred anyway….basically just make up things that will put your friend off asking for the favor in the first place. I know this also seems deviant but it will spare your friend’s feelings and spare you the awkwardness of outright rejecting them. I know my article started with telling the truth and this suggesting might seem like I am waffling a bit, but this is in the case that the previous two scenarios don’t work. The third scenario might seem a little crazy, so it’s a failsafe technic and the one I am proposing now is even more so. I guess inevitably if all else fails, you can always:

4. Be Straightforward

girl crying

The damn with feelings, friendships and being coy. Your friend isn’t getting it and you won’t put your name and professional standing on the line for them, no matter how close you are. Tell them why you won’t recommend them. Tell them not in sugar-coated words, or diplomatic terms that they would be a horrible candidate and even worse employee. Tell them that you wouldn’t want to risk your position and good standing with administration to refer your friend and let the chips fall where they may. Sure it might hurt them, it might even damage your friendship initially but hopefully it will make them look introspectively and give them motivation to change. Although it may seem harsh initially, in the end you might even be doing them a favor by telling them how it is.

Have you ever been in the awkward situation were a friend asked for a referral but you could not give one to them due to their personality or their lack of qualifications? Let us know in the comment section below…we love hearing about other people’s awkward moments.