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by Kate Rodriguez | August 10, 2016


Good things take time, normally. If you think finding the perfect new job is going to take ages, though, you might not know about employee referrals. HR experts say that referral programs—whereby employees refer potential candidates for jobs in their companies--are one of the best channels for hiring. A recent LinkedIn Talent Solutions survey of global firms showed such programs are growing fast, and 26 percent of these companies believe the referral recruiting trend will be around for a long time. Research has shown that workers hired through these inside connections stay longer in a company and perform better than those hired by other means, like job boards and career fairs. Referrals simply make hiring faster, cheaper and better. No wonder employers love them.

Employees are crazy about them too. Many organizations rely heavily on employee referrals and offer incentives to staff to recommend their friends for jobs. Big players like Google, HubSpot and the Big 4 dole out cash bonuses to employees who refer a successful hire. Others give paid trips, i-gadgets and generous goodies for referrals that work out. Suffice it to say, workers are highly motivated to connect their contacts to open positions in their organizations. It’s up to you then to find people working in your target companies and get them to refer you.

So, instead of merely applying for jobs along with the masses, invest your time in working the referral network. Here’s how:

Exploit LinkedIn

Devote your energies to using LinkedIn for all it’s worth.  Once you have establish a list of organizations you’d like to work for, search each company by name to display a list of all of your connections there (first-, second-, third-level and group members). Then use proper LinkedIn etiquette to begin building relationships with those whom you don’t know—many could become referees if you play your cards right. Also, search for specific positions you want by title (e.g. Team Lead, Channel Marketing) and location. LinkedIn now displays alumni from your school and any of your connections who work at the companies in job listings. Make the effort to reach out to these connections to learn more about the organization and what it’s like to work there as a way of opening the door to a possible referral.

Check out Company Sites Too

Along with exploring connections in target companies on LinkedIn, go directly to organization websites to learn about employee referral programs. Many large firms like WalMart and Accenture offer their own online referral platforms, which make the process so easy.

Connect to Alumni

There’s hardly a college out there that does not have a robust alumni network. Part of an alum’s “duty” to the place that educated them is to help fellow graduates find jobs, and referrals play a big role here. Tap into alumni online networks on social media in order to find contacts who are working in your target companies or field, and develop those friendships through online exchange or informational interviews. Also, get in touch with your alma mater’s career office and ask if they can field connections for you from the alumni career database, or ask to be invited to alumni networking events.

Use Tact

Naturally, you cannot expect a total stranger to refer you to a position in their company, even if you both graduated from the same school or have mutual friends. If people care about the organizations they work for—and ideally you want to work in firms where culture and loyalty run high—they will be reluctant to recommend just anyone. Plus, employees’ reputations are on the line if they refer someone who doesn’t pan out well. Never ask for a referral out of the gate from someone you don’t know well. The best approach is to first ask a potential referee to speak with you about life at the company: what kind of people succeed there, what the leadership is like, in what areas is the company growing or changing, for instance. Then introduce your own experience into the conversation as a way of building a bridge between the company’s need and your wants. The more a contact learns about your background and the more you learn about the company, the easier it will be to raise the referral topic.

Aim High

If you have a choice, get the highest-ranking person you know in the company to refer you. Experts says that over 90 percent of professionals referred by someone at the director level or above are offered a job, while only half of those referred by an entry-level staff person get hired.

While your efforts may pay off quickly in the form of a choice offer, it pays to see the employee referral method as a long-term strategy, too. When you build your general network over time, both in-person and online, you’ll have more referral options for the position after this one and beyond. And remember to give back by referring your contacts to vacancies with your new employer.


Kate Rodriguez is a freelance writer and podcaster who offers practical strategies to build a more fulfilling work life. She has worked as a university career coach specializing in international job search and a marketing manager for an online recruitment marketplace. Kate co-hosts the weekly podcast Richer Life Lab, which offers actionable tips to better manage your money, career and life. Check out and connect with her on Twitter: @katecareer