How to Say No to a Reference Request

Here are three ways to turn down a request for a reference.



What happens when someone asks you to be a reference but you’re not comfortable doing so?

It’s not easy saying no, but it’s still possible to deliver a letdown that is both polite and firm. Below are three options, suggested by Harvard Business Review.

1. If you are not willing to spend the time to answer questions on another person’s work ethic, tell the person who has requested a reference from you that you have an important obligation coming up—whether it’s traveling for a business trip, closing a deal or tending to family matter—and you simply cannot dedicate the time to deliver worthy praise.

2. If you do not know the person well enough, tell him or her you decline because you simply cannot speak well enough about his or her best professional traits, and he or she deserves a recommendation from someone else who can.

3. If you can’t think of can’t think of anything positive to say, let the person know you would be happy to help, but would not be able to compliment his or her work ethic to the degree he or she is likely seeking. It is a more difficult conversation to have, but you are helping the person out in the long run by being honest rather than speaking poorly about him or her to a possible employer.

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