Reference request - honest or not?

Have you ever been asked to give a reference for someone you don’t have too many good things to say about? Do you just keep it brief and let that speak for itself or should you try to find positive things to say?

Interesting one!

This option for me, keep it factual without necessarily highlighting negatives. At the end of the day, if you recommend someone that turns out to not be up to the standard you said, it doesn’t look great on you.


Good question and very tricky situation. I would try to find positives to say and that would dictate the length. I know people do better in some environments than others so unless that person had a bad attitude and was a complete timewaster I would try to help on this if I could. I have been in a situation where someone I’ve recommended hasn’t worked out and knew they were partly to blame. I just said I was sorry it hadn’t worked out to the mutual contact when I was next in touch with them. Awkward though and far from ideal when contacts are almost everything in this game.

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Yes I’ve also been in the position where someone I’ve recommended hasn’t worked out, which is very awkward. I guess you can only go on your own experience.
Making recommendations can be a tricky thing. On several occasions I’ve asked people whose opinion I respect for book recommendations and not liked the books they’ve recommended, so it just goes to show how different we all all. One man’s brass is another man’s gold, as they say.

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That’s true. To that end, could it reflect badly on you if you fail to flag up potential issues?