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How to Decline a Request for Recommendation

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How do you handle a recommendation or reference request from a person you are not comfortable recommending? While you do not want to jeopardize the chances of the person on the job market, you also don't want to endorse them when you are not sure of their credentials or qualifications. So what can you do about it?

How do you handle a recommendation or reference request from a person you are not comfortable recommending? While you do not want to jeopardize the chances of the person on the job market, you also don’t want to endorse them when you are not sure of their credentials or qualifications. So what can you do about it?

(Image Credit: David Castillo Dominici/freedigitalphotos.net)

Firstly, know your organization’s policy. Some organizations do not encourage giving references/recommendations and have a strict policy against this. They expect all such calls to be directed to HR. If this is true in your case, you just can’t provide references; it’s against the company policy.

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If that’s not the case, and you genuinely do not know the person well or have not worked with them long enough, say so clearly: “I am sorry, but I do not feel that I have worked with you long enough to give you an accurate recommendation.”

However, if you do know them but are not comfortable giving a positive recommendation, let them know that you may not be the best person they should reach out to for a recommendation. If you can, help them with other names. 

While some people send out mass mails to almost all the names in their address book (yes, they do), if you’ve received a personalized message and feel the person has spent time and energy in reaching out to you, do not just ignore the request. Respond appropriately to acknowledge their effort. Even if you are not going to help them, close out the communication; don’t keep them waiting for your response.

If you still receive an email/call from the recruiter, consider your response carefully. If you do choose to respond, be as objective as possible and make sure you have sufficient proof to justify your recommendation.

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Padmaja Ganeshan Singh
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