This is an important lesson I learned the hard way. It’s common sense advice that you don’t really think about until you’ve screwed things up, so hopefully this post will save someone from an awkward/painful situation in the future.
Last year, when I was still in school, I was dating a girl who wanted to go into advertising after graduation. In spite of my warnings that traditional advertising was in decline and wasn’t a good long-term choice, she insisted that she still wanted to pursue it. Because I was friends with a bunch of people in that industry from the internship I did, I said I’d put in a good word for her.
Now, this girl looked great on first impression. She had a really high GPA, a flawless record, and was a genuinely sweet person. But I suspected that she probably would not thrive in that environment. She was shy and afraid to ask questions. In spite of my doubts, I told my old boss that she was legit and passed her resume on.
She got the internship, of course. And when I talked to my boss a few months later, she suggested that I either not recommend people in the future or develop a stronger filter.
It was stupid on my part, because I really valued the relationship I had with my boss. The recommendation I gave reflected poorly on me, and her trust in me was shaken. It just wasn’t worth it. Favors are overrated.
I’ve learned my lesson since then. I don’t say anyone is legit anymore unless I’m 100% confident and have witnessed their work ethic/talent/creativity/passion firsthand.
If your recommendation has the potential to really screw somebody over (in time and/or money wasted), you can’t take the situation lightly. You need to carefully balance the person’s track record with your gut feeling. I knew this girl had a good track record, but my gut was telling me the situation was going to be a disaster.
If you really want to maintain a person’s trust and respect, do them a favor and be coompletely transparent. Don’t do anyone a favor just because they’re your friend. If you absolutely have to make a recommendation, give that person a few options. Say, “I recommend Person A, B, and C. They’re all good, but I think you should pick whoever suits your needs best.” It’s an easy way to do damage control. When they have options, it’s their fault if they make the wrong choice, not yours.