Your resume may be the single most important tool in your job search toolbox, but it’s certainly not the only one. Networking and job referrals are great ways to get your foot in the door!
While many of us would like to think that we can handle everything on our own, sometimes even a little help can go a long way. For example, a job referral can be one of the best ways to ensure that your resume gets seen by the right people. When someone refers you for a job, you’re far more likely to get called in for that interview.
Referred candidates are 50% more likely to get an interview
Nearly 40% of referred candidates get hired
Employees who got hired after being referred for a job tend to have higher job satisfaction and are more likely to remain in their new positions longer
The question is, though, how can you obtain and ask for a referral? You need to be strategic about who you contact and what you ask. Luckily, you’re in the right place! Read on for 5 expert-approved examples that can help you ask someone for the referral you need.
How do I get job referrals?
Before we get to those examples, however, let’s start with the basics. Here is the most frequently asked question we get about job referrals: How am I supposed to find people to give me a referral for a job?
The answer lies in your network and your past contacts.
When you need a job, you should leave no stone unturned. Contact old friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and even family members. Contact old college schoolmates as well–and if you’re not sure how to reach them, contact your old school. Create a list of possible referral sources, and then send out emails and LinkedIn requests to reconnect. Then, ask someone for the referrals you need.
Requesting job referrals can be a complex issue
Yes, it would be nice if there were a one-size-fits-all option when asking for a referral. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The problem is that your options will always be limited by the nature of your relationship with that company contact. That relationship can come in several forms:
The person who can refer you may be a close friend or family member.
The referrer could be anyone you went to school with or knew from a previous job.
The company contact is a stranger, but you have a mutual friend or acquaintance who can act as an intermediary of sorts.
The company contact is a stranger and you need to approach the referral request directly.
It’s important to know your “why”
It’s important to understand why you’re requesting job referrals, and why you’re contacting this person in particular. After all, plenty of job seekers just send their resumes around and wait for something to happen. Why take that extra step and proactively seek more direct assistance with your search? The answer is surprisingly simple.
When you can obtain a job referral, you automatically give yourself an advantage over your competition. A job referral mentioned in your cover letter will quickly capture a hiring manager’s attention. It provides credibility since that employer is likely to value the opinions of his team members. Of course, you can gain even more attention if your contact at the company speaks to the hiring manager on your behalf…perhaps even before an interview decision has been made.
You see, hiring managers and companies are aware of the data. They understand that referred employees tend to be productive and dependable. Those employees also remain with their employers longer than many other hires. In an age in which employees often jump from job to job, that sort of commitment and loyalty is still highly valued. Given those facts, it can be extremely beneficial to work on requesting job referrals early in your job search process.
5 expert tips for requesting job referrals
When requesting job referrals, always keep these important tips in mind:
1. Expand your idea of your network
Candidates don’t have to rely only on friends and family. Previous co-workers and school alumni can also make valuable referrals. All the people you know have other people they know. If you approach it right, your network can quickly reach exponentially more people.
Related read: How to Network on LinkedIn in 2021
2. Tailor your approach based on the connection
Your request for a referral can be made in several ways. With close associates, you can simply ask in person. For acquaintances, however, you should take a more structured approach. Use a letter, email, or LinkedIn message to make your request.
3. Don’t simply ask for a job
Never directly ask for a job. That could put the person on the spot and make the situation uncomfortable. Instead, ask whether they might be able to refer you, or whether they know enough about your work history to feel comfortable referring you for a job. If the person isn’t receptive, you need to adjust your ask to instead request someone’s contact information, a possible introduction, or an informational interview to learn more about their business.
4. Offer proof that you’re a good fit for the job in question
For referrers who are not as familiar with your work, offer to provide them with your resume and any other needed information. For creative professionals, this information might include a portfolio of past projects.
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5. Make it super easy for someone to refer you
Always offer to provide the referrer with the referral text. That will make their job easier if they agree to provide the referral! It’s much quicker to edit a message you provide than type something up on the fly. Remember: the easier you make it to do you a favor, the more likely your favor will be granted!
We have an example of a referral text at the bottom of this post.
5 templates to ask for referrals on LinkedIn or email
Every job referral request has a basic structure. You can use that template to create your message and change the actual request language to accommodate different situations. Keep in mind your audience, what you’re asking, and how well you know the person.
The basic structure is as follows:
A greeting. This can be informal when you know the person, or more formal if you don’t.
A line or two offering well wishes, and an acknowledgment that you’ve been following that person’s career.
Information about your current job search efforts. Let the person know that you’re aware of an open position in the company and interested in interviewing for it.
Make your request. This request language will vary, depending upon your relationship with the referrer.
A statement letting the person know that you’ve attached your resume and cover letter.
How to ask for a job referral when you have a mutual friend:
Bob tells me that you are in regular contact with ABC Corp’s hiring manager, and he suggested that you might be able to put me in contact with him. I have included my resume and cover letter so that you can see my qualifications and work experience. If those details convince you that I would be a good candidate for the job, then I would greatly appreciate any introduction you might be able to make.
You should mention Bob's name in the email subject line when sending your resume. You may need to specify who Bob is in a LinkedIn message.
How to ask for a job referral from close friends or acquaintances
Hope all is well with you! (Insert something personal, such as asking how her family is).
I am wondering whether you have any contacts with your company’s hiring personnel, and if you would feel comfortable making an introduction. If you feel that you’re familiar enough with my work history and skills to put me in contact with [hiring manager name}, I would greatly appreciate it!
Example of a job referral request to an old acquaintance
Hope all is well with you. (Insert something personal, such as a reference to how you know him)
I already submitted my resume and application to the company and was curious about whether you are in contact with your company’s hiring manager. If so, it would be a tremendous help if you were able to introduce me to her. I’m confident that your referral would go a long way toward helping me land the interview I need to get the job.
Example for requesting a referral from a stranger
After reviewing your recent accomplishments for your company, I am excited at the prospect of contributing to the firm’s success myself. My resume has been included with this letter. I would appreciate it if you could review it briefly. I am sure that you will find that I would be a valuable member of your company’s team. If so, then I would also appreciate any help you can offer by way of introducing me to your company’s hiring personnel.
You’re less likely to get a response from a cold email. That's why you should keep messages to these types of connections simple and follow up on your resume submission 5 to 10 days later.
As noted, it can be helpful for you to write the actual referral yourself and provide it to the referrer. Here’s an example of that type of letter:
Hi [Hiring Manager],
My [former co-worker, colleague, employee, etc.] has applied for the Sales Manager position and contacted me to ask a few questions about the job’s scope. We worked together for several years at ABC Corp, and I’m confident that he could provide real value here as well. Would it be all right if he contacts you to talk about the job later this week? His email address is [email] and his direct line is [xxx.xxx.xxxx].
Most emailed resumes are still going through an applicant tracking system (or ATS) of some sort. Here are some tips on passing the ATS resume test.
Requesting job referrals through LinkedIn or email can be a powerful way to open some doors. That can help lead you to more interviews and improve your odds of getting that dream job!
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Caitlin Proctor, CPRW, Certified Professional Résumé Writer
Caitlin joined the ZipJob team in 2019 as a professional resume writer and career advisor. She specializes in strategic advice for executives, career pivots, and remote workers. Read more resume advice from Caitlin on ZipJob’s blog.
The ZipJob team is made up of professional writers located across the USA and Canada with backgrounds in HR, recruiting, career coaching, job placement, and professional writing.