How to give an honest reference

The work week began with a phone call from a stranger asking about someone who had applied for a job with their company.  The questions were about his (let’s call him Zak) attitude, performance, readiness, accuracy etc.  Honestly, the last time we had worked together was more than a year ago, but I knew that anything I said would impact upon his application, and his career path.  I recalled some important lessons my mentors had taught me: everyone is on a journey, we are all fallible, we learn from the opportunities we are given.  And I know that I have grown from being mentored well.

SAM_2597 giving a reference

So I responded honestly about how willing and cheerful Zak had been and how ready he was to be supportive as we were on the same sales team.  “Would you hire him if he applied to work with you?”  my questioner asked.  I responded by stating what types of skills we look for and that Zak was partnering with me as a representative of a technical company with whom we had a joint venture, and had never let me down. If they hired him and assigned him on a sales call with me, I’d be happy to have him. I highlighted all his strong points honestly, while leaving the responsibility for nurturing him with his employers.