job searchWe know this situation all too well.

You have a friend or former colleague who’s — how shall we put this? — not exactly the cream of the crop. They ask you to help them get a foot in the door at your current company and you’re not exactly sure how to handle it.

After all, your gut is saying to stay away because your name will be associated with the candidate. Then again, you don’t want to be rude to your friend. This piece on AOL Jobs should help steer you in the right direction.

1. Agree to help your friend but don’t go all out. That is, make a lukewarm referral. As suggested in the piece, “Even just passing along the resume puts you in the position of helping a non-qualified person access your employer, and you could look bad if it does not work out. Choose this option at your own risk and keep in mind: a lukewarm referral may do more harm than good.”

2. Deflect the situation and explain why the job isn’t an ideal fit. You may be able to completely avoid the situation by having a frank conversation with your friend by pointing out reasons why it’s not exactly the best fit. Maybe the corporate culture is not a fit or perhaps the commute would be tedious. Be honest in pointing out negative aspects about the opportunity.

3. Create an excuse. The piece recommended you don’t need to provide details such as explaining that a bad experience of recommending a friend in the past hasn’t worked out. As mentioned in the piece, “You don’t necessarily need to provide details, say she isn’t likely to be a valuable employee or explain why you can’t make a referral, but if you have a good reason to defer, you may be able to avoid hurting the friend’s feelings with too much honesty.”

4. Re-direct your friend to another opportunity. Here’s certainly one way to deflect the referral: Provide suggestions. “Suggest he work with a coach to help identify how he can be more competitive in the job search. Sometimes, it’s easier to hear tough news about your qualifications from someone who isn’t close to you. You could do him a huge favor by spending time talking about how to identify target companies and discussing how to apply for appropriate jobs.”

And if none of the reasons feel quite right you can always go with honesty as your best policy. This conversation could be difficult to have depending on how close you are to the person but you can frame the talk into a positive one by offering constructive criticism.