19

Background

I am studying mechanics at the university. Last summer, I did a great internship in an auto industry company. This internship was really rewarding, I did a useful job and I learned many things on different subjects. My co-workers were really nice to me and my tutor made me have an incredible first working experience by showing me all the departments, the factories, etc. I happened to get this internship by contacting via LinkedIn a former student of my university who is working there. Also, my university is keeping a database with all the internships the students have done, to allow other students to see in what kind of company they can apply to and read the internship reports.

Situation

Some days ago, a student from my university asked me if I could give him the name and email address of my former tutor in the company I did my internship as he is very interested in doing one there. The problem is: I know this student for being unreliable. He was part of different student societies this year and a lot of people complained about his inability to do what he was asked, to attend meetings and to be available to organize events. But on the other hand, when we talked together, he was always very nice with me and we had some interesting conversations about the auto industry, races and so on. I feel like if I give him the contact of my former tutor, he may get in touch with him and disappoint him. Even if he doesn’t get an internship, he may act as usual, i.e. not replying to emails or not doing what my former tutor may ask him to do. I want to keep a good relationship with my former tutor and I feel it could be jeopardized if I “send” him a student who is not serious.

Question

How can I tell him I don’t want to give him the contact of my former tutor without being rude?

  • 1
    What did you tell him when he asked in the first place? – Dean MacGregor Jul 17 '18 at 16:30
  • 1
    If you're not dead-set on telling the classmate no, you could post this situation on the Workplace SE for more options, such as getting your classmate in contact with your employer without risking your reputation on his skill. – Clay07g Jul 17 '18 at 18:55
  • >Also, my university is keeping a database with all the internships the students have done, to allow other students to see in what kind of company they can apply to and read the internship reports. Are the contact details [usually] in this database? – Pod Jul 24 '18 at 10:10
51

In your place I would talk to the former tutor and be frank about your impression of the student. Let him decide if he wants to give him a chance or not. They might be in dire need of new employees and they might want to meet and interview him to assess if they want to offer him an internship or not. You can't know their current situation and preferences.

After you contact the tutor options are much clearer:

  1. They are not looking for interns right now - just let the student know
  2. They are interested and will meet with the student - you have already shared your opinion on the person so they won't hold it against you if it doesn't work out

Also don't forget that people change and grow. Generally speaking they are more reliable as they grow older (up to a certain age at least). God knows my work ethic has changed a lot in my first few years after college.

EDIT: Many of you have raised concerns about giving negative feedback to the recruiter/old mentor and how professional it is. I can freely say I totally agree with you all. That point should be taken with moderation and really depends on the relationship of the OP with the mentor and how much distance he is comfortable with creating.

For example if I am giving a reference to an old company I used to work for and have no interaction with those people I would be much more neutral.

If I am giving a reference to the company owned by some of my university friends or people that I generally have a outstanding relationship with I will be much more direct and honest about my opinion as not creating a bigger rift between me and the person I refer can compromise my own relationship with my friend.

Another reason I would be more direct that what is generally accepted is because I live in an ex communist country where the only way to get things done was to know someone up high and to some extend this is still ongoing. Here personal references are taken a lot more seriously.

I am certain OP will find the balance in his own situation.

  • I think that answer is plagued with (wrong?) assumption that OP knows about student's abilities first-hand – aaaaa says reinstate Monica Jul 18 '18 at 17:40
44

Contact your former tutor and say "I have been asked for your contact information by another student. May I share it with him? This is not a recommendation by me, I am simply facilitating his contact of possible intern sponsors at your company."

Don't say anything negative. Make clear your role, do the minimum, and step back.

You never know when this professionalism will come around to help you in the future, or how unprofessionalism might hurt you (and it is unprofessional to state negative impressions unless you are in a business position where such judgments are required).

If pressed by the contact for your opinion, just say "It seems like you value my opinion, and I am flattered, yet how can I be part of his interview process, since I am just a student?" Keep using some variant of (a very calm) "how am I supposed to do that?" until he stops asking.

  • This is spot on! I would advise though not to say "how could I as a student....?". You should not make it look like they are asking you unreasonable things. Tell them that you know him to be an interesting person to talk with, but that you cannot vouch for other qualities or skills. Employers are or should be versed in reading between the lines. Your original email "This is not a recommendation..." should tell a potential employer that you are not endorsing the person. Otherwise your letter would have started with "I warmly recommend my colleague Bob who is great at this and that...". – yo9cyb Apr 28 at 15:58
  • @yo9cyb I actually do think it’s unreasonable to ask a student to weigh in on another student. But I didn’t mean to say something that communicates this. The thrust is to be achievability, not propriety. “I don’t have the skill or exposure to do that” is all I meant. – Sojourner Apr 29 at 7:19
3

There's probably a formal process he should go through to apply for an internship, tell him that you can't do anything but point him there. This has the virtue of likely being true. It's unfair for some people to bypass HR's hiring process just because they know an inside person, so your old tutor might not even be allowed to consider anyone just because you put in a word for them.

If asked, I you could tell them the facts behind your interactions with him...I'd be extremely reluctant to share second-hand gossip.

  • I understand your point of view on the unfairness to such a process. But currently at my university we have a network with the contact of most of the former students and where they work. We are encouraged to send them an email to ask for advice about the internships offered by the company they work for (like which would suit you the best regarding to what you learned). It doesn’t mean we are bypassing the HR hiring process (which is impossible) but we can have details on the internships and show your interest. – AutoJim Jul 17 '18 at 21:43
  • My point is, you can't pass anyone's contact info to your old boss, so it's not a big deal to say "sorry, I can't do that". The company will hire him, or not, based on their own assessment. – swbarnes2 Jul 17 '18 at 22:14
3

In cases like that, I would try to tell the truth:

Hey Jonh/e Doe, I would definitely do it but we never worked together so I am not comfortable giving recommendation.

This is true, AFAIK, because you only know about student's ethics from others:

The problem is: I know this student for being unreliable. He was part of different student
societies this year and **a lot of people complained** about his inability to do what he
was asked, to attend meetings and to be available to organize events.

If you still want to be helpful though, you should contact your mentor asking if you can share their contact info with others:

Hi Tutor, I told my classmates about my great internship and they want to apply too. Can I give them your info or should they follow some company process?

Notice that's different from "Hi Tutor, I got this great friend who I know is awesome, can you give him a chance too?"

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