Do you have to have worked with them? Can you refer random people you met at a party who happen to be your friend on Facebook?

In other words, if I do refer or recommend someone who I haven't worked with and perhaps don't know that well, what are the possible professional ramifications?

  • Knowing someone on social media tends to be problematic, that's a display persona only, not to be taken as a real representation of a person. Or in many cases not even a mildly accurate one.
    – Kilisi
    Mar 11, 2016 at 11:26
  • Refer or recommend? I've referred people I didn't know, but whose resumes were forward to me by mutual friends, with a caveat along the lines of "I don't know this person, but a they are looking and seem qualified for the opening we have." Recommending is another matter ...
    – GreenMatt
    Mar 11, 2016 at 17:44

5 Answers 5


If by 'refer' you mean that you simply tell the person about an open position and perhaps offer a little advice for the application process - no worries.

On the other hand, if your referral implies that you are somehow endorsing the person - you should obviously take care.

Best advice: tell the person about the position, and make it clear to HR and the hiring manager exactly how well you do/don't know the person.

Full, honest disclosure is the best way to go.

  • Agreed 100%. If you honestly don't know if the person is good enough for the role, then make is absolutely clear that your referral should in no way be taken as a substitute for the usual interviewing and decision-making process. Mar 11, 2016 at 2:11
  • "Full, honest disclosure is the best way to go" - I took this approach for the first and the only referral I made so far and it worked. In my email, I also mentioned why I believed the candidate must be considered and he was selected after HR / Tech interviews.
    – Chethan S.
    Mar 11, 2016 at 10:56

There's a bit of a difference between referring someone and recommending someone, but unless specified, a referral is implied to be a recommendation. HR and/or the hiring manager will assume that you can vouch for this person to a certain extent, which means having first-hand or second-hand knowledge about his work ethic and skills. When you provide such a referral it's assumed that you'd be happy to work with them as a colleague. Some people recommend terrible employees for the bonus money but that's not something you ever want to do.

Now, if you can't speak to a person's work, you can still refer them and get the referral bonus. You just have to make it absolutely clear that you're only introducing the person and can't speak to the quality of their work. HR doesn't have a problem with that as an external recruiter does exactly the same thing for a much higher fee.

Bad recommendations can have a dramatic impact on your credibility and the value of any future recommendations you make. For that reason you should never recommend someone unless you have worked with them before or know someone who has and who's judgement you trust. A referral that doesn't work out shouldn't have the same effect as long as you're clear that you only introduced the connection.

Never provide a character reference when referring someone if you don't know their work ethic. Someone can be a perfectly nice person but a terrible employee and you risk that being taken as an outright recommendation.


You should ask yourself this question before referring someone:

Will his performance impact my career?

If you make your company hire a slacker or worse in your company because you did not know his personality well, it can negatively impact your career. If you just met someone online or just once at a party, you do not know them.

  • I would recommend only referencing people that you have somewhat detailed, personal experience working with.
    – CKM
    Mar 11, 2016 at 1:00

As said, there's a difference between informing someone of an opening, and endorsing them as a candidate. For the former, let people in the hiring process know about any relationship.

For the latter, you need to be aware that what you're doing is gambling. You are betting a portion of your current standing on the success of your acquaintance. If they do well, then people will view you as someone with good judgement, you are the one that got them to hire this glowing beacon of productivity. If they mess up, then they'll distrust your judgement in the future. Why should they trust your estimates/work/opinion, you got them to hire that colossal nitwit!

You need to be aware of what you're laying on the table, what you stand to gain, and what you stand to lose.


Can you refer random people you met at a party who happen to be your friend on Facebook?

Sure you can, you can recommend total strangers you just met at the bus stop if you want.

Is it wise? Well, if you have to ask that question, wisdom is probably not an issue for you, so don't worry about it.

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