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When You Don't Want to Be a Resume Reference

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by 21, Jan 31, 2007.

  1. 21

    21 Well-Known Member


    A good friend has a son who is graduating college this year, looking for a job in sports media. I know the young man very well....he's just a putz. Not a bad guy, just immature and spoiled. He ignores good advice, complains about small jobs, thinks everyone is an idiot. Not saying he won't grow up and find his way, he's just not there yet.

    So his dad emails me and asks if I'll be a reference for the kid, he wants to put me on his resume. Normally, I wouldn't hesitate, happy to help. But this time, I just don't want to do it. If someone called me, I'd be lying if I said he'd be a good hire.

    No clue how to get out of this without insulting my friends...and they'll definitely be insulted--they've spent their lives greasing the skids for their son. I know the obvious answer is to be honest and say I don't think he's ready (and why didn't he ask me himself?), and their response will be, 'All you have to do is say you know him and he's a great guy!'

    Ugh. Any advice?
  2. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Sounds like he would fit right in. What's the problem?
  3. zeke12

    zeke12 Guest

    Tough one, 21.

    I'd say let the kid put you down, but tone down your praise when and if you get calls. You don't have to be completely honest, just don't go over the top to sell him.

    Most hiring people will get the gist if the referene doesn't completely gush over a prospective hire.

    Since the kid is likely looking for entry-level work, this shouldn't keep him from getting the job, and won't make you lie.

    Unless you want to just tell the kid's dad "No." Then I'd go with the standard "never directly supervised him, so I wouldn't feel comfortable," dodge.
  4. Rusty Shackleford

    Rusty Shackleford Active Member

    Don't respond to dad's e-mail, and the next time you see the family, pretend you never got the e-mail. If someone calls you asking about the kid and is considering hiring him, pretend you don't who he is or how he ended up giving out your number.
  5. Mystery_Meat

    Mystery_Meat Guest

    I guess the answer hinges on what kind of job he'll be getting. If he's in the running at a major, then you'd probably be able to say he's not ready and feel pretty good about it, because it's almost got to be true. If it's the Coal County Gazetteer-Express, then he'd probably be an okay fit even with the flaws. Because, while you obviously know way more about it than I would, your description of him fits a lot of people in the business.

    Here's hoping when it comes to that point, you'll get a lot of specific questions about his qualifications and abilities as opposed to "do you think he'll do the Gazetteer-Express proud?"
  6. RokSki

    RokSki New Member

    You have to be honest. Just try to do it in the gentlest way possible. Coming from an accomplished professional as yourself, hopefully it will help wake the kid up to his needing to pull himself together and become serious about his work.

    As a softener to the blow, you can tell your friend that you'll be happy to point out/make a list of what his son can work on to become successful in journalism. As an established figure, you can't be expected to dole out false praise where it isn't warranted, lest your own reputation suffer for getting someone who is not prepared hired.

    Good luck. :)
  7. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

    21 -

    Have you ever talked with the parents about personal recommendations before this? If not, you could just say that it's your personal policy not to write references for young people with whom you haven't actually worked.

    Or, Machiavellian, but I've seen it done, write the young man a polite recommendation that let's the recipient know, between the lines but in no uncertain terms, that the kid's a bad hire.
  8. Overrated

    Overrated Guest

    Be a reference.

    The father didn't ask you to be a glowing reference. Or did he?

    Either way, if an employer calls, just be honest with him. It's not like the employer is gonna call the kid and say, "Dude, your dad's boy hammered you. Therefore, you're not hired."
  9. Montezuma's Revenge

    Montezuma's Revenge Active Member

    Sleep with him.

    Then he won't care what kind of reference you give him.
  10. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    A good friend asked me to help his nephew last year with internships, something that would be impossible where I work because the kid isn't a minority. Understand, I wouldn't mind helping the kid, because I've read his stuff from a major-college daily and he has decent but not great ability. But this is something any editor can discern from the clips and, as I haven't actually worked with the kid, there is nothing I can add besides, "Seems like a good kid, and based on his clips would seem to be able to write for a living." Which would seem to do the kid less good than a recommendation from people who actually know him, because the kid would come off like someone who values connections over actual working relationships. The way I see it, using me as a reference would seem to do him more harm than good. Maybe take that tack, that editors see right through that "tenuous connections" ploy; they want to talk to people who actually have edited the candidate or worked beside him or competed against him.
  11. Cadet

    Cadet Guest

    Actually, I'd make the kid ask you himself. It's his resume, why is dad doing the work?

    Tell dad the kid needs to contact you. When he does (if he does - if he's lazy he won't), grill him about why he wants to be in this business, what his plans are, what his experience is, make him show you work samples, etc. Make him earn it. If he doesn't answer to your satisfaction, then let him know you can't provide a reference for him. At least then you'll have personal proof when daddy comes crying. And you'll be dealing directly with the kid, who may take the hint that he needs to shape up.
  12. Norman Stansfield

    Norman Stansfield Active Member

    Ding ding ding! We have a winner!
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