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Submitted by jamclaughlin on


How do you say no to a request for a recommendation?

The reason for declining is based Mark & Mike's guidelines to only give recommendations to top performers. Saying "you're not good enough" seems a bit rough, especially for someone out of a job.

Would like an answer from two perspectives

1. A colleague or co-worker is requesting, someone who you've worked with on projects.

2. A direct.

Thanks much.



bug_girl's picture

I get lots of requests from students and interns for letters-and many of them I really don't feel I can recommend strongly.

I usually say that I'm happy to write them a letter, BUT I don't feel that I would be a useful reference for them. I {insert phrase: don't know them well enough, didn't supervise them, am not a good match to recc' for position applying for} and think they would get a more valuable reference from someone else.

This avoids the "you suck" conversation by suggesting that better help is available elsewhere, and is nearly always effective.

If they are really persistent, I do one of two things:

1. Re-iterate it won't be a quality reference, and if they ask again, write the letter.

2. Tell them straight out that they do NOT want me as a reference. I've only had to do this once. Fortunately, I've only had one employee that I would not recommend under any circumstances.