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Giving a Work Reference for a Friend

A person who used to work for me has moved and is applying for jobs. I got a call from a prospective employer about her work habits, personality, strengths, weaknesses, etc...

I had to answer a bunch of questions about her.

Here's the thing....she is a good friend (at one point we became like best friends), but we did have some problems in the work place. There were some things that she did that were careless and somewhat unprofessional in my opinion. I want what is best for her (and that would be her gaining employment at this job!). It was a difficult decision to decide where my loyalties stand.

Do I lie a little and give her a shining reference so that she gets the job to provide for her family (and perhaps in these circumstances would perform much better),


Do I tell the entire truth about her work performance to this complete stranger on the phone and ruin her chances of starting over in a new location?

She was not horrible and didn't steal or do anything harmful, and at times she was outstanding, but near the end I think she was under a lot of stress and just wasn't thinking clearly and she became sort of careless and was not as reliable. Still a nice person and good friend, but not someone I would want to work with again.

I just want your opinions... I've never been in such a situation... I don't think I've ever even been someone's reference before! It will not affect me either way, whether or not she gets the job because she has already left the area... I just wonder if I did the right thing or not. And it might happen again!

Thanks in advance!!!

Did she ask you to be her reference beforehand? Or let you know she was putting you down?


I was wondering the same thing. Usually you ask someone before you put them down as a reference.


hh might not have been mentioned under "references" but under "prior employers." when I've filled out applications, I list my prior workplaces without notifying them... I figure it's just expected that you're going to list the most recent places you've worked at.

I'm not sure if this is the right thing to do, but I'd probably give her a good reference. You got caught off-guard though... But I think I'd end up being "nice" more than honest. Not saying it would be a glowing reference, but I would, er, polish the truth.


I would be honest and tell them exactly what you told us. That she was outstanding at times, didn't steal or anything but that at the end she seemed stressed and that it effected her work but that you overall found her to be a good worker.


I had to do that recently.  It was for someone I care for very much.  I emphasized her positive attributes and really didn't mention the negative. The one negative I mentioned I worded so that it almost seemed a positive.  I did not mention the chronic lateness.  I figure if she loses a job due to chronic lateness then that is her decision to not take it seriously...which I have hoped that she has work out.


We can hope the stress she was under when she had the job with you, HH, may have got better. Maybe her situation is different now.
I remember asking someone I really thought was a close friend if I could put her down as a reference and she said, "No." Just like that. "No, I couldn't do that." Wow. DH said, "Well, better you should know that than to put her down and have her diss on you to whoever."

Not surprisingly, we didn't stay friends forever. Not because of that, though.



To answer some questions:  We had a falling out.  After the make-up, she said she felt awful about the whole thing because she felt she couldn't use me as a reference.  She did not specifically ask me, so it took me by surprise.


Well, that was pretty dumb of her, honestly! You ALWAYS, ALWAYS want to ask people if they would be willing to be your references (each time), and it's a good idea to talk with them beforehand. I would never, ever put down a reference I wasn't sure would only say positive things, and I definitely wouldn't put someone down I had a falling out with! That being said, I probably would have highlighted the positives and skewed the negative toward positive if it was someone I actually cared about. If the person was actually not a good employee, then I would have been totally honest.


I agree that it was a pretty dumb thing for her to do. It totally perplexes me as to why she would use you as a reference...and then not even ask you. So strange!


she should have asked and warned you.

i would have given her a good one, we all go through our stressful moments and it does effect us differently.

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