I referred a candidate to a company I currently work for. The candidate is technically competent, but I've recently come across some issues with their character, such as a negative attitude, verbal harassment and anger management problems.

How would I approach this? I have the recruiter's contact info - can I just send an email summarizing these points? What potential repercussions could there be?

I get that I might come across as unreliable, but sometimes people inadvertently reveal things about themselves that need to be responded to.

Note: This recruiter works directly for the company, not a third party.

  • 34
    You don't get to rescind a referral. Let it go and move on.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 12:56
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    Important distinction: is this a referral or a reference? The former would be saying, "I know a person who would like to apply for the job. Here's their resume." The latter would be, "I know a person who would be great for this job! They are very qualified and great to work with. Here's their resume."
    – David K
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 13:02
  • 3
    @DavidK AFAIK a referral implicitly puts your seal of approval on the application (otherwise you should just recommend they go through official application channels). A reference is who they call afterwards. Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 13:23
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    @Dukeling, Sorry, I meant to say recommendation rather than reference. And I don't believe that referring someone implicitly puts your seal of approval on them. To me a referral just means making sure the resume lands on the right desk. For some companies it may be best to apply through official channels but in others it may be helpful to personally email the resume to the hiring manager. I would be happy to email a manager "I have an acquaintance who is interested in applying for the open position. I can't speak to his skills but want to make sure you got a chance to look at his resume."
    – David K
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 13:45
  • 5
    @PoloHoleSet There's a major difference between vouching for someone (recommendation, acting as a reference) and simply making the connection (referral). Companies want both because qualified candidates are hard to find and this avoids going through external recruiters.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 17:30

7 Answers 7


If so, how would I approach this? I have the recruiters' contact info - should I just send an email summarizing these points? What potential repercussions could there be?

Yes, you could email or call the recruiter and rescind the referral, but is that really a good idea?

The question I would have to ask myself at this point is "Should I potentially destroy an opportunity for this person to gain employment?" If you originally gave a referral, how bad of a employee could they really have been?

Think carefully about the impact on this person before you rescind. Unless they did something egregious, I would not rescind the referral.

  • 38
    @hologram If I were in the recruiters shoes, I would have to wonder what your real motivation would be to give a referral and then try to rescind it. Would seem shady unless the person did something egregious.
    – Neo
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 13:02
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    Definitely consider the impact. OK, so the candidate recently has had a stroke of negativity and anger issues. But why? I'm not justifying here - just saying, who knows what's going on in that person's life. This job-change may just be the exact thing needed, perhaps even prescribed by a behavioral psychologist. A mantra I like to remember, "Never be the bane to someone's search for life's balm."
    – OhBeWise
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 18:57

So, by referring someone you give them a little head-start and then they are off on their own. The only thing you did is put knowledge of an opportunity in someones head. You can´t undo that!

What you are now suggesting is the exact opposite: You´d dissuade them to employ said person. So you should ask yourself, what would you do if you did not refer the person in the first place, but only discovered by chance that he applied with that recruiter?

Would you still have gone out of your way and into others peoples business to prevent him being employed there? Ok, then go on. I would do do so by phone or personal conversation - this borders on defamation and needs to be handled carefully and with the right tone - if at all - remember you cant rescind that either! Maybe, just have a chat with the recruiter and say something like "The guy I referred to you, just want to make clear I cant vow for him, so don´t give him any bonus-points because of me." Although even that might sow suspicion and that may be worse for his chance than actual facts.


Yes, you should notify the company.

  • Referring someone generally comes with an implicit seal of approval from you.
  • Perhaps more importantly, as their employee, you represent the company and revealing this information to them is in their best interest.

There are a few conditions, however:

  • New information

    If you had this information all along, trying to rescind your referral would be a questionable decision.

  • Verified information

    Hearsay, rumours or a single account of what happened from someone else would not be good enough to act on. You need to be as close as you can be to absolutely certain.

  • Character flaws, not technical ability

    If you simply discover that they're maybe not as technically skilled as you thought (due to no fault of theirs), this should be discovered during the interview process, so I'd say it's not really your place to reveal this.

    Character flaws are generally much easier to hide during the interview process.

  • Repeated and recent instances

    People make mistakes and people change. A single instance of something bad that can be argued is a mistake or accident or something bad that was really long ago probably isn't enough to make a fuss about.

  • Serious flaws

    "A bit lazy" or "A bit negative", for example, would not be in any way useful to point out.

    Verbal harassment or compulsive lying would be serious enough.

  • Before they get hired

    If they've already been hired (and you weren't a target of their actions), you'd basically be bad-mouthing a coworker (which is not good) as opposed to providing relevant information useful to the hiring process.

  • Initially keep it vague

    Initially keep it vague and offering to provide more information on request, as to make it easier for them to ignore it if they don't find it appropriate or they're not the right person to which to reveal this information, they've already decided not to continue the process with the candidate (in which case details are unnecessary) or they might get removed from consideration if you simply withdraw your referral without more details.

  • (Later) stick to non-specific facts, not your interpretation

    Some examples:

    "I found out about multiple verified instances where he/she verbally harassed coworkers" would be fine.

    Providing information about who they harassed, how many times or what exactly they said or what the consequences were would be too specific (unless they harassed you, in which case you should at least share that detail).

    "A negative attitude" and "anger management problems" would lean towards interpretation, so that's not really useful - if you say they constantly complain (which seems minor) or if they had violent outbursts, that would be more useful.

They're likely to eventually get fired if they get hired is what most of the above comes down to.

A possible template:

Hey {Recruiter Name}

I referred {Candidate Name}, but I've recently discovered some information about their character which made me second-guess that decision and believe they wouldn't make a good employee.

Let me know if you'd like me to provide details.

  • 2
    thanks for the comment, it was through numerous recent interactions where the candidate directly harassed me verbally. they haven't been hired yet.
    – hologram
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 19:16
  • 2
    @hologram If it happened to you, that's verified information. You'll have to decide yourself whether it's serious enough based on what exactly they said and how the interaction played out Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 19:32
  • The template you provided seems like a hiccup in the process. Why would any employer not want you to provide the details? Furthermore, if there's a chance they may find it inappropriate, why are you sending it in the first place? Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 19:58
  • 1
    @StephenG Why would this be "an appalling stab in the back" when it's perfectly fine to reject them based on how they behaved in an interview or as a result of a background check? Those things seem indistinguishable to me. Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 20:52
  • 3
    @hologram, Call the recruiter by phone. Do not leave a paper trail. Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 6:53

Typically referrals are only good at the time they are given, and if new information comes to light, unless it's particularly egregious, a referral writer should not attempt to keep their referrals up to date.

Most hiring committees throw out old referrals and request new ones, so if your referral was given awhile ago and the subject hasn't received a job, then they may request a new one, and at that point your new knowledge may become relevant.

Lastly, you may be setting yourself or your company up for a lawsuit if it's discovered that you've amended your referral. Whether valid or not, such lawsuits can take significant time and resources, and if the company finds itself defending you, your job may be at risk.

Leave past referrals in the past, and if he asks you for another then suggest he finds someone else who can give him a positive referral.


I agree with the folks who say, don't ruin someone's chance for a job unless you think other people are likely to be harmed; I also agree that there's a risk to your own reputation if you go back on your referral without strong reason.

However, you might want to talk to the problem child, not just about them to others. Say to the person, when they do bad behavior X, "you know, I referred you for a job, and now you're really making me want to go back on that when you do X. I'd really like you to stop, please." They might very well stop; the might not have realized how they came across, etc. etc. So give them this chance. Then if the person doesn't stop, after a direct request to stop, you've confirmed their jerkiness. (And you have been less of a jerk, confronting someone directly about a problem instead of saying nothing to them but deliberately sabotaging their chances at a job.)

If the problem persists, you can talk to HR, or not. And if you do, you can say "I referred this person, I thought they were OK, and now I'm getting this behavior I've never seen before, and they did not stop when asked." In other words, you have new, and contrary evidence, which you tested before presenting it.


This has "bad idea" written all over it. Based on your response to David K, it sounds like you never said anything good about the person to begin with. If you now go and say something bad about them, it could potentially be considered slander. You should also consider how it would appear to the hiring manager if you refer someone and then insult their character. At best, you'll come across as indecisive. At worst, you'll be seen as unstable and potentially toxic.

The fact that you "referred" them doesn't mean the company will hire them. If the accusations you make about their character are true, there is a good chance this will be found during the screening process. If they do somehow get hired, they probably won't last long. If the person is acting this way to you after you did them a favor by referring them, the chances are good that your bosses and co-workers will pick up on it as well.

Basically, you have a lot to lose and probably nothing to gain from such a discussion.


If you have new information, you should probably pass it on to the company.

Will it make you look bad? Maybe a little. It depends on factors including whether it's a referral or recommendation, how long you've been at the company yourself, how much credibility you've built up, and how reliable your new information is.

But what will make you look worse if the candidate manages to get hired, and then verbally abuses other employees. It will make you look even worse if it comes out that you new about the candidate's previous verbal abuse and didn't disclose it.

In the long run, it's better for you to have operated transparently, than to keep your information to yourself and just hope that it works out in your favor.

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