‘FBI’ TV Show: What Would You Do If You Were in OA’s Shoes?
In a recent episode of ‘FBI,’ OA (Zeeko Zaki) is asked by a family member to provide a job reference. His younger cousin is applying to become a police officer. However, OA doesn’t believe his cousin is qualified for the job. He decides to speak to the hiring manager and tell him his cousin isn’t a good fit. As you probably guessed, OA’s uncle isn’t pleased with the decision.
What should you do if an unqualified friend or family member asks you to be a job reference? Showbiz Cheat Sheet chatted with Vida Thomson, founder and consultant at Flourish Career Consulting. Here’s what she said.
Showbiz Cheat Sheet: What are some pros and cons of being a job reference for friends and family?
Vida Thompson: An obvious pro is that you get to help out a friend/family member and support them in getting a job! It’s great for companies as many say that they find quality candidates through employee referrals. A potential con is that if your friend/family member does not get the job, they may blame you! They could assume you provided a less than positive reference. To avoid this, I recommend being as open and honest as possible in order to help your friend/family member get the job and avoid damaging the relationship in any way.
CS: If a friend or family member is clearly not qualified for the job, how should you handle this? Should you refuse to be a reference, or should you tell the employer this person is a bad fit?
VT: If your friend/family member is clearly not qualified for the job, I recommend letting them know your concerns upfront. I don’t recommend refusing outright to be a reference–that could also damage your relationship. If you agree to be a reference for someone, I always recommend asking for the job description the person is applying for. This will give you an idea of the job requirements and responsibilities, and depending on the job, you might even change your mind on whether your friend/family member is qualified or not.
Also remember that candidates don’t have to have all the qualifications – the description is a guideline. It’s also helpful to have a copy of the friend/family member’s resume on hand so you can be sure what you’re saying aligns with the information the employer has. If you feel like there is a big gap in your friend/family member’s experience vs. the job requirements, bring it up with them. I don’t recommend outright refusing to be a reference for a friend/family member without providing a good reason. Do not ever provide a negative reference for a friend or family member! This can be hugely damaging to them. If you don’t want to do it, tell them you’re not comfortable and provide them with a reason why.
CS: What should you do if you were a reference for someone applying to your place of employment and he or she was fired shortly after being hired?
VT: There are many reasons someone might be fired from a job, including personal fit, project requirements, etc. Remember: It’s not your fault that you recommended someone and they got fired, even if you feel like it might reflect on you. Since the reasons are confidential, I wouldn’t recommend digging into it too much, but if you’re asked about it, I’d recommend being upfront and honest. State that the reference you provided was based on the knowledge you had regarding the person at the time and say that you regret the outcome. If there is anything you can learn from the process, such as being more careful about who you recommend, definitely try to take a lesson from the experience going forward.