The company I work for is expanding and a new role came up that I thought a good friend of mine would be a perfect fit for. There's a fairly generous referral bonus and I really believe that my company is a good place to work, so I encouraged him to apply through the online form, putting down my name in the "Referred by" field. He received an email from someone in HR (who I later found out is very new to the company - they started last month) saying they were very interested in having a chat with him, and a phone call was arranged. (I realise now that this was a mistake, and that I should have just sent his CV directly to my colleague who would be the line manager for the role).

I spoke to my friend directly after the call to get his feedback - he was very despondent about how the call had gone and was even questioning whether my company was as great as I said it was, so I discussed it with him. He informed me that the person he spoke to had not discussed the role any further with him as he'd expected, nor had he been asked about his skills or why he'd be a good fit, and instead was asked irrelevant questions like what his current pay was, what other types of role he was applying for and whether he had considered going back to university. He said that he felt "spoken down to" (borderline rude, but didn't give anything specific) and near the end of the call, he was told that the HR person "would not feel comfortable putting [him] in front of these people" and asked if he would be interested in another role that they had open in sales. He has no interest in sales and very little relevant experience, so was quite taken aback by this, but nevertheless said he would consider the role (I imagine out of courtesy).

I was very concerned with his feedback, not only because I want him to get the role, but I felt that if this is the norm for screening applicants, it's no wonder we're having such a hard time finding qualified, talented candidates. If I had had that experience, I would have run a mile.

Of course, there is the possibility that I was completely wrong about my friend being a good fit, but I wanted to be sure, - given the concerns I had - so I contacted the person who would be the line manager for this new role (someone I work fairly closely with and get on with quite well) and asked them to give me some more details about it. I had a good conversation with them about what sort of person they were looking for. I did not tell them that my friend had already applied as I want to avoid anyone thinking that I am engaging in underhanded tactics in trying to get my friend hired. But after the call, I was even more convinced that my friend would be a great fit, and remain very concerned that our "first point of contact" for new hires is potentially missing out on good people or even scaring them away.

At the end of our conversation, my colleague asked me if I knew anyone, and I said yes, and they said "Well send their CV over and I'll forward it on to [HR person that my friend spoke to]".

I need some advice on how to handle this going forward. I need to send my friend's CV to my colleague, but I do need to somehow inform him that the HR person has already spoken to them - obviously I don't want to leave my colleague in an awkward situation. I am happy to explain to him that the reason I didn't tell him before that my friend had already applied because I wanted to avoid anyone thinking that I was acting underhandedly, and I'm also comfortable raising my concerns with him. My question is should I raise these concerns, and if so, how?

I do firmly believe that I'm acting in the best interests of the company - both in putting forward a person who I honestly believe is a great candidate, but also in bringing to attention my concerns about our hiring process. This just seems to be a very delicate situation and I would really appreciate some advice on how to handle it.

  • Interview is a two-way street. Maybe your friend does not have a good feeling about the company. Anyway, it is his decision, you are not his legal guardian and I hope he is not starving :) , therefore he does not need to take that exact job.
    – rs.29
    May 25, 2021 at 18:26
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    After I clarified the requirements with my colleague, I spoke to my friend again and reassured him. He's still very interested in going for it and we both agree that the HR experience was just an anomaly in what would otherwise be a great opportunity for both parties. He's pretty desperate to get out of a bad work situation that's causing him stress and into a company that will actually value his contribution. May 25, 2021 at 18:30
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    And how was your experience when interviewing and joining the company?
    – DarkCygnus
    May 25, 2021 at 18:32
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    @FionaSapphire Well, simply say to perspective boss everything you said us. Tell him that your friend's interview with HR person didn't go well and ask him if he could set up interview regardless. I don't see why would you need to beat about the bush, especially if you have good relations with that line manager. If he says yes than fine, your friend will have his interview. If he says no, life goes on.
    – rs.29
    May 25, 2021 at 18:37
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    @JoeStrazzere: My current salary is totally irrelevant for a new position.
    – gnasher729
    May 26, 2021 at 0:50

2 Answers 2


Call the hiring manager. Tell him what happened in the broadest terms.

I used to work for HR (as an intern) at a well-known national laboratory a very long time ago. What the recruiter did would have been unacceptable in our organization.

Resumes that came in with referrals from internal employees would have been passed on to the hiring manager, no matter what. In fact, we were so afraid that someone would accuse us of losing resumes or prematurely screening out candidates, that any resume that came in with an internal referral would automatically be placed on top of the pile of paper resumes, or would be marked with a priority flag within our database, to show at the top of search results.

Remember. HR works for the company. It's not the other way around. There is nothing underhanded about telling the hiring manager what happened (in the event that they don't know). Then, it's their decision to take it further, or not.


In the event that Kilisi is right and that your friend really presented poorly during the phone screen.

You may want to review his resume and specifically look for red flags. The same with his LinkedIn or Github or Twitter (or Facebook if it's publicly accessible through Google). And then, if he's game, you may want to give him a call, and do a mock phone screen with him (the same way a suspicious non-technical recruiter in a hurry would have done).

Even if he no longer wants to work for your company. Assessing his performance should still be helpful to him, for the other companies he wants to apply to.

If your friend needs additional practice with behavioral interviews, I'd suggest that he use https://pramp.com (that site helps by facilitating free mock coding interviews, but they recently introduced mock behavioral interviews as well).


How do I handle this?

You don't.

You weren't there and you shouldn't interfere because it's not your responsibility and you only have one side of a story. When you refer someone it's up to them to create a good impression and all the rest.

Your involvement after the referral should not be necessary and has a potential to work against you. You're basically calling HR's competence into question and trying to get other people involved whilst doing so.

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    Providing feedback to the company that their recruiter is prematurely filtering out potential candidates, and/or is off-putting to candidates is very valuable. May 26, 2021 at 11:58
  • @MarkRotteveel assuming the feedback is true, it seems extremely one-sided at best.
    – Kilisi
    May 26, 2021 at 12:07
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    Maybe, but not informing your organization of such feedback is simply not a good idea. How else will the company find out they are - possibly - doing things wrong? May 26, 2021 at 12:09
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    @MarkRotteveel to some it would be very confrontational and the feedback is so one sided and negative as to be almost unbelievable. You won't convince me otherwise.
    – Kilisi
    May 26, 2021 at 12:50
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    I can see it from both points of view, which really, is why I asked the question. To see if either perspective was more appropriate, and even gain new ones. On balance, I decided that giving feedback was important due to the difficulty we have had finding good people. I was sure to word it as professionally as possible, highlighting that fact that it's just my perspective, and I may be wrong. But that's just it - I'm only raising concerns, it's up to management to decide the validity of them and how to act on them, if at all. May 26, 2021 at 14:56

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