Many employees start their career with the help of someone already in their industry who has put in a good word for them. It's just as crucial to build connections with people as it is to earn a degree and gain experience.
"The most important benefit of being referred is that you almost always get someone's attention to at least look at your resume, instead of having it fall into the black void of an applicant tracking system where no human may ever see it," said HR analyst, Laura Handrick of FitSmallBusiness.com.
A job referral is a common way to get your foot in the door at a company, setting you apart from applicants who are just as, if not more, qualified for the job. So, what can you do to stand out as a capable applicant? We outlined four tips for getting a job referral.
1. Create a soft referral for yourself.
Take matters into your own hands by reaching out to others for help. Leela Srinivasan, chief marketing officer at Lever, advised candidates to "think as broadly as you can about potential connections you have into the organization." Ask yourself if you know anyone, even just briefly, who can potentially offer a referral.
"A soft referral would be to go through a shared connection," said Heather Monahan, founder of #BossinHeels. "If you don't have a shared connection, then reading about the hiring manager's experience and background [is] a great start."
Research where the hiring manager attended college, what companies they've worked at before, what their interests are, etc. This will help you to establish common ground and personalize your experience, Monahan said.
Additionally, Handrick suggested collecting written recommendations you've received on LinkedIn and saving them as PDFs. That way, you can attach them to your application as soft referrals.
2. Establish a genuine connection.
To build more meaningful connections, attend networking events and conferences, and post helpful insights on industry blogs, said Handrick.
"Once someone sees you demonstrating your credibility, they might consider referring you based on that alone, but better if you … get to know them and help them in some way before asking for a recommendation," she added.
If all else fails, think about any possible ties you can make with the company. Ask questions, show that you've done your research, and express curiosity about company culture and values.
"Try to establish a legitimate connection, even if it's experience-based," Srinivasan said. "As a candidate, your object[ive] is not to game the system. On the other hand, if you come to the table with authentic examples of times when you've exhibited a particular value that the company champions, those could come in handy during the process."
3. Leverage social platforms.
If you find yourself empty-handed after considering possible connections, turn to social platforms.
"Social media is king when trying to get a referral," said Monahan. "We all have established networks, and when you search within these networks to find out if you have contacts in common, you start the path to set yourself apart."
Pay special attention to LinkedIn. Scour a company's profile, click See All Employees and check if you have any first- or second-degree connections.
"If you have a first-degree connection, reach directly out to them, explaining why you're interested in working for the org[anization] and asking if they can refer you," said Srinivasan. "If you see a second-degree connection at the company … figure out how you're connected and see if there's a mutual connection who might be able to give you a warm intro."
According to Srinivasan, many companies have referral programs and offer incentives to employees who refer candidates. You may be surprised by how eager your potential connections will be to refer you.
4. Simply ask for it.
Handrick stated that the secret to getting a referral is asking for it. If someone compliments you on your work or professionalism, kindly ask them if they'd be willing to refer you.
If you know someone that works at your desired company, reach out to them and ask if they can get you an interview, said Monahan. If you don't have access to an insider, however, you can always speak to your loved ones.
"Asking your family and friends for help definitely pays off," Monahan added. "Let everyone know what you are trying to achieve and ask them to do something specific … We are always one connection away from the introduction we may need. Being upfront and honest about your intentions is key when trying to establish a new connection."
You can also keep a file of positive comments people have shared with you, Handrick said. That way, when you need a referral, you can reach out to that person and see if they'd be willing to put that in writing as a referral.
Don't be afraid to ask for help. You never know how far it will get you.
"No one in this world succeeds alone," said Monahan.