Recommendations: Always Good Idea?

recommendationOver the course of the last several weeks I’ve had three clients who have come to me with differing problems in the same area: recommendations.

My definition of a recommendation covers everything from a short letter of praise written by past/current employer or coworker, to a pilot-acquaintance who offers to walk your resume in to his company, to the person who puts his or her reputation on the line by vouching for your professional and personal background.

My first client had an acquaintance that offered to deliver his resume to her company’s employment office. His dilemma came as a result of a highly confidential situation in his background of which she had no knowledge. Although he was going to tell the company of this black mark on his record, he was concerned about letting anyone else know for fear of it becoming common knowledge. Did he have to tell his acquaintance?

It is always unfair to hide any unusual situation to someone who is offering to help you land a job. It is a professional responsibility to ensure that you never make a decision that could damage someone else’s reputation. Thus, in my estimation, he had but two choices: keep the information between he and the company and decline the offer of assistance, or, tell his acquaintance about his situation.

This client chose to inform his acquaintance about the situation and was honest about his fear of it becoming common knowledge. After becoming comfortable with the facts she pledged to keep his confidence and continued her offer of help.

The second client had a good friend who was anxious to write him a letter of recommendation and walk in his resume to the employment office. Sounds good, but the problem was my client was keenly aware that his friend was not well thought of at the airline. Although he was a good pilot, he could be argumentative and rigid. His question to me was two-fold: how did he decline his friend’s offer of help without hurting his feelings and how did he make sure that his friend wouldn’t walk in a letter without him knowing?

This is a sticky situation and one that could seriously damage a friendship if not handled delicately. My advice was to decline the offer of a personal drop-off of his resume under the auspices of feeling strongly about, ‘not wanting to appear to be looking for special favors’. However, I did encourage him to ask his friend to write a short letter to attest to his excellent piloting skills and ability to work well with others. He should make it clear to his friend that he, my client, wanted to present the letter during his interview.

He presented this plan to his friend who agreed, without concern, to follow his friend’s wishes.

The third client came to me with a more difficult situation. He had accepted a friend’s offer to introduce him to her company’s Chief Pilot. During this introduction his friend gave him a glowing personal recommendation.

Although he was offered an interview he was not offered the job. My client felt strongly he was denied employment because of a recent DUI conviction he had on his record (within the last 18 months). My client’s friend was extremely upset about the decision and wanted to pursue the reasons why. The problem arose because my client never told his friend about the DUI.

My client had to put aside his disappointment about the interview and focus what was best for his friend. It was vital that he tell her about the DUI immediately so that his friend didn’t pursue the matter further. Depending on his friend’s wishes he might have to go one step further and inform the company that his friend knew nothing of the DUI when making her recommendation.

Before accepting recommendations ask yourself two simple questions 1) will this recommendation help or hinder my chances and 2) will accepting assistance have any negative impact on the person offering to help?

Cheryl Cage is the author of the best-selling Checklist for Success: A Pilot’s Guide to the Successful Airline Interview. If you would like to arrange a Special Concerns Consultation, Interview Preparation or Career Consulting appointment with Cheryl please contact her at 1-888-899-CAGE (2243) or email her