The recommendation conundrum

It's awkward when friends ask to be referred to jobs that I don't think they're well equipped to handle. While I want to help them accomplish their goals, I also need to be honest in my recommendations or they won't be worth much in the future.

I tend to shy away from the tough love that's probably necessary, and instead ask why they're interested in the role. Then, depending on their answers, I try to steer them towards other opportunities. But, if they're my friends, shouldn't I be willing to share why I'm uncomfortable vouching for them?

I worry that this "let them down easy" approach is doing a disservice. Implicitly, they're asking for a good recommendation. Since I can't do that, I should directly tell them to ask someone else and leave it to them to solicit my opinion.