Job Referrals

How to Request Job Referrals from Your Contacts

When you’re looking for a job at a certain company, using a relationship with someone who already works there as a referrral can be a great way to get noticed. However, there are right and wrong ways to ask someone to help you get a job, and going about it the wrong way may actually hurt your chances for getting hired.

Here are some rules to follow when asking for job referrals.


Make the request personal

Think about it: You’re more likely to want to help someone who you know, or at least someone who you have some things in common with or who you’d like personally.

If you’re asking for a referral from a friend or even an acquaintance, start your inquiry with a personal note that shows that you’re specifically thinking of them and aren’t just blanketing your contact list with referral requests. The personal note could mention their recent career achievements, ask how they’ve been since the last time you saw them, or include another reference to something you have in common.

If you don’t personally know the person you’re asking for a referral from and they’re either a friend of a friend or a LinkedIn connection that you found through a common network, consider inviting the connection out for coffee or lunch for “pre-interview.” As Matt Kaine, CEO and Founder of the networking app Reach, was quoted in this article:


“Offer to take the contact to lunch as a way to provide all the information needed for a strong referral, from major professional accomplishments to what makes you an ideal candidate. This conversation not only increases your chances of obtaining an interview, but [it] also makes your contact look good for providing an informed recommendation.”


A personal meeting helps your referrer get to you know you better, gives you a chance to prove yourself, and also helps you get more inside information on the company you’re interested in.

If you don’t think the pre-interview is appropriate or it isn’t possible for another reason, make it as easy as possible for the person to feel like they understand your personality by crafting your introductory email in a way that points out what you have in common. You can also link to your blog or social media accounts if appropriate, especially if you use them for career related posts, to give the referrer a feel for your personality.


Make Sure Your Credentials are Clear

To refer you properly, the person you approach for a referral has to have a good sense of your credentials. If you’ve worked with this person before, this is no problem. However, if you’re approaching an acquaintance that you’ve never worked with before, it’s your responsibility to make them feel confident that their referral will only reflect positively back on them.

In addition to stressing your network connections with your potential referrer, as discussed above, use the introductory email to remove any doubts that this person may have that you’re a great candidate and will continue to reflect positively on them once they’ve referred you. You can do this by providing relevant work experience


Do Your Research

You can’t write a compelling argument that you’re a good fit for a job, role, or company if you haven’t done very thorough research into what any of those things entails. This is a good tip for all job searches, not just referral requests. It does a disservice to you and your referrer if you haven’t put a lot of thought into whether you really are qualified for any given role, or why you you think any particular company is a good fit. Don’t expect the person you’re contacting to provide any information that you could have procured yourself through thorough research, much of which can be done online.

Kira Pollard-Lipkis, part of the LinkedIn sales team, gets a lot of requests for job referrals at her company. She suggests making sure that you have a specific job or job opening in mind when you ask for the referral.


As she writes in her LinkedIn Post:


“I’m often surprised by how many people contact me after they’ve applied for 3, 4, or sometimes as many as 10 jobs. What do you think that says to the company you’re applying for? It says “I know that I think I want to work for your business, but I really have no direction beyond that.” It tells them you’re throwing spaghetti against a wall in the hopes that something will stick.”


Make it as easy as possible for your referrer

Make it as easy as possible for your referrer to pass your information along and recommend you for a job; remove any possible obstacles that could make them hesitate, ignore the request, or even just postpone it to later, when it’s likely to be forgotten.

That means not only making sure that you’re a good fit and that you can prove you’re qualified, as mentioned above, but also that it’s easy for the referrer to send.


Think about what the person has to do to actually refer you.

The first thing is that they need to make sure they have your resume and any other relevant info, such as work samples or a portfolio. You make it much easier for everyone when you can simply link to this information, either on a website built for the purpose or through a cloud-based system like Google Docs.

Adding attachments makes things much more complicated, especially if the attachments are large or need certain programs in order to be opened.

Furthermore, it makes it much easier for the referrer when you are as specific as possible with your request so the person knows exactly what to do with it.


Carrie Mantha, a fashion CEO who often gets referral requests in her inbox, has this advice (as posted on The Muse) about subject lines of referral requests:


If you write, “looking for a marketing internship,” your only hope is that I happen to be looking for a marketing intern right at that moment and am willing to click through to the discussion to see if you’re a fit. However, if you write, “looking for a summer marketing internship in NYC with an e-commerce company like Warby Parker or Bonobos,” I might remember that I know someone at Warby Parker. It doesn’t matter if my contact is looking for interns—I can easily shoot your resume over with a note saying that Warby is one of your favorite companies and ask her to please consider you when she’s next hiring.”


Don’t forget to follow up and say thank you

If your referrer passes your info along, a nice thank you note to follow up is a nice touch, whether or not you actually got the job. If you get the job, perhaps another thank you note or email is in order. This is a considerate and thoughtful gesture that will continue to help your career in the future.  

[Photo credit to: 드림포유]

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