I started working three weeks ago as a web developer at a local company with around 100 employees. While drinking beer with my friend, he mentioned that his brother was looking for a job. I have never met the brother, who's a student. I mentioned that the brother should apply at my company, and that I'd put in a good word if I got the chance.

But I wonder if I opened my mouth too much here: while I'd love to help him get the job, I think my friend is expecting too much since I have never met his brother or know anything about him. He's asking if I could talk to the HR department directly and recommend the brother. I told him that his brother should apply for the position himself and send a résumé over to me so I can talk about him if he makes the interview.

Overall, did I make a mistake here? I don't know how to tell him to drop unrealistic expectations; I fear he thinks I am going to "hook him up" to a job. I am afraid if his brother turns out to be a slacker or horrible, it will reflect poorly on me.

UPDATE: I got an email with his résumé and I've said if there's an opening I'll forward his resume to my boss and made it clear there's no guarantee. What I'm now concerned about is: what if he applies and claims that I am recommending him to the company? Would HR take it as if I am vouching for him even though I've never even let HR know yet? Is this an excessive worry?

I can say that I will never do something stupid like this again. It's time consuming for all parties and I am going to keep my mouth shut about work while drinking.

  • 4
    If you have substantial influence in the hiring process (e.g. you're the hiring manager, in the interview loop or work in a small company), then it's a difficult decision. If you're just giving someone a shortcut to an interview (which they can pass or fail, regardless of your input), then your exposure is minimal.
    – dbkk
    Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 10:00
  • 2
    No. You totally shouldn't. Commented Jan 24, 2014 at 15:11

8 Answers 8


When you don't know the candidate too much, but do wish if he gets in the job, here is what you should do.

  1. Understand what his profile really is. Take his profile and tell him, you will check whether there is a suitable position in the company. Tell him clearly you can't promise anything.

  2. Talk to HR and or relevant departments and share with them the profile. Check to know whether he/she fits very well in any position. Always tell them "No obligation". They can consider him if fit but don't pressure them.

  3. Convey the message as per above - so if there is position and someone thinks she/he would be great fit it is always good. If someone thinks NO - tell your friend that they don't have an opportunity right now.

  4. Another possibility could be that he is interviewed but either got rejected or got lost against any other candidate. Help if that is appropriate to get feedback and convey, but do not pressure them to give preference to your friend.

  5. Last - never attach yourself related to any salary negotiation.

  6. In all cases, you should follow things up to some extent but if you don't find any positive response (If they are only being nice by saying "We are considering") don't push too much on either side.

So here is the overall policy.

  • Just be the messenger. and a good one.
  • Be honest in all your communication.
  • Do not pressure anyone or take pressure from someone.
  • Do not try to push anyone's choices.
  • Keep no guilt. Do your best and no more!

If a great profile has filled a good job position - you have done a good job. If the there is no job or no fitment between the candidate and job it was never your fault anyway!

  • 4
    Love this answer! Adding to it - when the position has been in my realm of expertise, I tend to cut both ways - I give the company my honesty (if I don't know the guy, I say so), but I also give the contact the courtesy in reverse by pointing out good or bad things in the resume. Also - realize that employee referrals are generally subject to the same process as external applicants. Mileage varies if you, yourself are the hiring manager. Commented Apr 18, 2012 at 15:39
  • this is what I've explained so far, that I will just pass on the resume to HR when they announce an opening and that I have no influence over their decisions....now my only concern now is that he might apply himself and say he knows me and that he recommended me to them making it look like I was always behind him.
    – joezlja
    Commented Apr 19, 2012 at 6:38
  • 2
    What you have do so far is perfect. If he applies himself based on any published opening then really it is no issue. It is okay if he puts your name as reference. The candidate making self claim of "knowing you" wont hurt you really. HR might just come and cross check with you. He cannot really proclaim that you are "Recommending" him; If he has used your name in any manner which you are unaware of - don't worry if any authority will come to cross check that fact from you; at that time you should make honest submission of what the reality is and that's it. Do not fear. Commented Apr 19, 2012 at 6:48
  • This is a good answer. The OP should look at the resume, and if it looks like a possible match to possible open slots at his company then by all means, pass the resume to HR. 'Just be the messenger' is great advice. 'I have this resume from a trusted friend, it's worth a look. I don't know the candidate personally.' is all the OP needs to say to the screening person. Commented Apr 23, 2012 at 17:36

Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut. Ernest Hemingway

We have all said something over a few beers that we later regret. That probably includes your friend, he probably wont hold you to it.

Probably the best approach is just to be honest. Offer to give his resume to HR directly (this does get him a foot in the door at least) but be clear that you cant recommend him as you don't know him well enough.

  • Hemingway speaks the truth...
    – joezlja
    Commented Apr 19, 2012 at 6:41

You are correct that you don't want to vouch for someone that might not be qualified.
So what I would do is talk to the brother and give a "pre-interview" to him. If he's lacking in certain qualifications, I would advise him and tell him to work on those things beforehand. As for work ethic/attitude ("slacker"/"horrible"), you can't really find that out until he starts working there (unless you found that out somehow during the "pre-interview").

If you've done your homework and he seems okay, you're "off the hook". If they interview him and he flops, you would tell them that you talked to him and thought he was okay. If they hire him and he flops, that means he got past you and the HR of your company, so there was no way to predict his performance.
If your recommendations keep flopping, I would be very careful in making future recommendations.

  • I sort of find this advice sort of bad. If he isn't responsibile for the hiring process, what experience does he have, to determine if the person will be a good fit. Seems like you are better of just keeping the situation exactly where it is, saying what the situation is, and being honest about the entire situation.
    – Donald
    Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 15:23

Usually when i recommend someone for a job i make sure i know that person a bit. I've recommended friends and friends of friends, but i`ve always had a background on what they can do and how they are as people.

So in your case you might have been a bit fast in offering that proposal. Nevertheless he might prove as an asset to your company and to you.

P.S. Why not try and have a chat with his brother and see where he stands? Maybe that will make it more easy in taking a decision on your dilemma.


Generally I think referring or recommending someone for a position is a risky business. Essentially you are putting your reputation on the line in that how they perform may reflect on you. I would suggest never recommending or backing someone unless you were confident in their abilities and had a complete grasp of their work ethic. If you believe you have this then by all means put in a word in the right ear. I think in this day and age I would consider recommendations from existing employees (especially if I value their contributions) go a long way to selecting a condidate for a position.

I think you have done well to say send in your CV, but perhaps make it clear that you are not reponsible for the actual hiring process etc Perhaps say the HR have some fairly strict processes everyone needs to follow but you could have a talk with the brother and give him some pointers. It might also give you a chance to sound him out!

If he is a slacker and you have referred him then yes, I would imagine it will reflect badly on you in some context.

FYI. I once recommended and got a good friend a position. I knew he was a hard worker and he ended up being an excellent worker. He in turn got another friend a job but that guy ended up being a bit of a slacker. He said to me that he regretted recommending him as he felt it reflected badly on him and other co-workers talked about him all the time how bad he was. It put him in an awkward situation both in the workplace and in the social scene with this friend.

Although your situation is a brother of a friend it too might put your friendship in a potentially strained situation if things don't turn out. Just be prepared for that and try and maintain a work / friendship seperation if you can with your friend.


Recommendation of a potential candidate is always a better "bet" than just getting one through any other methods. However, as you have only be with the company for 3 weeks, your recommendation may not be authoritative enough.

I would make it clear to your friend that his brother would still have to submit his CV to the appropriate people and to prove himself at the interviews. This ensures that the real legwork is still to be done by his brother.

I would make it clear to your friend what my influence are on getting his brother a job at the company, and how limited it is. Basically, just forwarding his CV and perhaps a quick introduction.

It could strained your friendship, but if your friend is close, she will be able to understand your situation and the position that you are in.


Unless you want to invest the effort to investigate if they guy is really a good candidate, I'd suggest trying going the route of Introducing him to the right people in the company instead of full-on recommending him.

This means that you should have a conversation with the HR person first and make it clear that you don't personally know much about the candidate other than a personal relationship, but you'd appreciate the favor of giving him an audience with HR or the hiring manager.


Giving advice to apply via HR is OK. If you really want to help that guy, you can do more research:

  • Get his resume and help him to improve it
  • Find out on corporate website opened positions, do some research on them. Quite often position as described on HR website is quite different from what hiring managers really wants - might have different priorities.
  • Help your friend to customize resume, highlighting relevant bits (of course no lying or exaggerations), so his resume has better chance to go pass the filter.
  • If you are lucky and your company has referral bonus, you might get some cash for this effort.

Key is, you are helping your company to find reliable employee. To find job for your friend is a side effect.

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