In general I am an outgoing person and tend to meet a lot of new people. I work at a software company and some of the people I meet in public are software engineers. I am a senior engineer and architect and currently run a team at my company.

Our company, like most software companies, is most definitely short on good engineers and the other day on the train I met two young people in their last few months of university who were very interested in finding work. I know that we are specifically looking for this exact profile. They asked me for my card and sent in CVs the next day.

I forwarded them to HR, saying something like "I was waiting for the train and met some engineers. Here are their resumes. Are these interesting for you?"

I got this message back from HR and am debating with myself what to think about it: "What a nice place to recruit new people =)".

I have a feeling this is a passive aggressive note implying I should feel bad about promoting the company. In general I am planning to ignore the comment (at least, not respond by email) but it makes me wonder how should I interpret this and if I should do something differently?

The two people I met, in my mind, have excellent profiles. Looking at the one CV, it's very solid. Maybe I am too open-minded, but is it reasonable to consider them, or is it a black mark on me or the candidate just because I met them in a two minute conversation while switching trains instead of a two minute conversation on a recruitment day? Why would this be worse than applying via our public website?

  • 58
    HR's reply seems more tongue in cheek than passive-aggressive. You certainly have their attention, and they're being friendly with you.
    – rath
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 10:32
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    I interpreted it as a compliment rather than passive-aggressive or even tongue-in-cheek. Don't overthink this.
    – Masked Man
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 11:02
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    So what's your question? As Joe said, you're reading this wrong. HR just wanted to confirm they got your mail and commented on the non-standard location. It doesn't mean anything.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 12:13
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    Thank you all! Hearing it from several people makes me think I am reading too much into it. Typical engineer problem =)
    – JPK
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 12:47
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    Poor HR... they can't do anything right. Even when they try to be friendly, people immediately look for a hidden message. Don't worry JPK, you're not the only one who over-thinks this kind of thing. If in doubt, just remember that those people up in HR are human beings just like you.
    – Simba
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 17:15

5 Answers 5


In general you should only refer people that you know are decent candidates, since their performance has an impact on your image.

In this case you have pointed out that you don't know these people, which is the right thing to do. It's up to HR now to figure out if they are good candidates or not. They should realize that you cannot vouch for their skills.

I would not think of the response you got as a passive-aggresive note at all. I would just see it as a light-hearted comment.

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    The best way to deal with written communication is to assume the best intentions on the part of the other party, even if the text reads, "I hope you die in the firey bowels of Mount Doom after having your soul consumed by a herd of dementors." Otherwise you turn into an Internet Troll. Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 15:22
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    @WayneWerner a modified Hanlon's Razor: never attribute to malice... Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 19:45
  • I could also see creating a reply, if you REALLY wanted to be sure: "Hello again, just to be clear, will these individuals be evaluated as potential candidates for hire? I believe their skills to be strong, and what we need for our prospective job positions."
    – Pysis
    Commented Nov 1, 2016 at 5:49
  • @Richard which is exactly what Jeremy said.
    – Celos
    Commented Nov 1, 2016 at 7:33

Well, the idea behind this is that HR received the CVs. Their answer may have been bad perceived by you, but they CVs are in their hands.

In other words, you did what you had to do. Don't overthink an answer that might sound undiplomatic to your ears.


You are not referring, you are sourcing

Finding good candidates for a job position is at least as difficult as interviewing them. If you met some people (no matter if it's a train, coffee shop or a conference) and got them interested in your company, that's a good thing! HR often pays big buck for posting and promoting your job offers. Providing more visibility is a Very Good Thing (tm) and I can't see why you should feel awkward about it. I would be very surprised if the message you received was in any way ironic.

Sourcing is not the same as referring:


Meet Mary, I worked with her 2 years ago, she's a really competent developer and her skills match what we need the most. I'm confident that she would be great fit here and I'd be happy to see her join my team.


Meet John, we just met on a train last week. We talked about what we're doing around here and he's interested in applying.

When introducing people to HR, it's important to clearly indicate which situation are we dealing with - are you providing a recomemndation or just introducing a person? Referral candidates often undergo a different (usually shorter and more friendly) recruitment process because there's already an assumption that they're more likely to be good hires. This implies that giving a referral comes with a degree of responsibility and you should be careful.

Sourcing doesn't come with any statement about qualifications - the candidates would probably go through the standard process, as if they learned about the job opening elsewhere.

It seems like you did that properly. It sounds like you intended to source these engineers and there's no sign of miscommunication, so - again - there's nothing to worry about! You helped your HR find possibly good candidates and helped a few engineers possibly find a job. Feel free to do the same next time you have the opportunity.


Sort of reply you received..

If it really has a smiley face in it then take it as a joke otherwise take it as a criticism.

Either way

You shouldn't take it too serious.

For future...

Don't forward CVs unless you are recommending someone you know... For strangers ask them to send CVs to company's generic recruitment address.

By the way

Recommending a stranger and than they become a pain for yourself... ?

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    At no point did he represent them as people he could really vouch for... what's the problem?
    – Casey
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 18:19
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    @Casey If there is no problem then why OP asked a question about it ? Obliviously in different scenarios output will be different for what OP did... hence the best way to deal with such cases has been suggested by me Commented Nov 1, 2016 at 7:19
  • Well, in my opinion, he is reading more into HR's response than is there.
    – Casey
    Commented Nov 1, 2016 at 12:56
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    -1 for the warning not to send strangers' CVs. There is no downside to doing so, and the fact that the OP had a brief conversation with them and thought they were worth considering is useful information to HR. As the OP notes, the exact same thing happens at recruitment events and is considered standard.
    – user45590
    Commented Nov 1, 2016 at 13:55
  • @dan1111 Like I said outcome of doing so is different in different situations, hence my general advise is to stay away from doing so. Don't forget there are HR's that don't like sourcing.. Commented Nov 1, 2016 at 13:58

Suppose you found them online by simply using search (google, LinkedIn etc.). Would it make them inferior or less credible? No! Quite the opposite - for some reason people trust online as if they saw it with their own eyes. Next time you could just say this:

I found these two profiles on LinkedIn, they have a good match for position X, check them out.

Generally, if you spent little time on something (example: fixed a bug in 5min), your best bet is to avoid exposing how much time you spent on it. Non-technical people tend to not take it seriously, no matter what it is about.

Another idea - limit the number of words you use in a message. Non-technical people tend to take 7-10 words out of your message and combine them however they please, ignoring the rest. Don't provoke them into thinking something you didn't mean.

  • I found these two hundred profiles on LinkedIn, they look like a great match for position Y, should I sent them to HR ? obviously it depends e.g. on your role in company or if HR are on it Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 7:22
  • @Mathematics: Do your research and select 4-5 out of those 200, then send to HR. What you just did is called sourcing, people are paid hundreds if not thousands of dollars, and a good candidate in software is worth 10-20$K for some companies. Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 11:28

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