Asking your network for job opportunities is one of the most effective ways to be hired. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a whopping 70 percent of all jobs are found through networking. It literally pays to keep in touch.
Many corporations also have referral bonuses, where an employee can receive extra cash for every successful hire they refer in. This can vary from a few hundred dollars to upwards of $10,000 for a referral.
Companies are willing to pay for referrals since external candidate hiring can be a long and expensive process. And companies trust the opinions of the current employees when filling job vacancies.
But how do you ask that one guy from your last internship you never spoke to about a role at his current company? Even still, how do you ask a good friend about a role while maintaining professionalism?
Job referrals can be a win-win-win scenario for all involved (win for you, your friend and their company), but they can be tricky to navigate.
So how do you ask?
Depending on your relationship with your potential referrer, this can be a casual or professional interaction. The less you know about your referrer (and the less they know about you), the more professional you should keep the conversation.
In all cases, there are several steps you can take to speeden up the process:
- Apply to a job.
- Identify your “in”
- Write the email out yourself.
Apply to a job
When you apply to a job, your referrer’s potential referral bonus for your successful hire becomes a very real possibility. When you only ask questions about the role without solid commitment of interest, you don’t signal your seriousness for the role or for your referrer’s time.
Think of this interaction as a two-way street: how can you help your referrer also? Simply applying to a job expedites the process and brings your referrer one step closer to a potential bonus.
Identify your “in” – Who should I ask?
The better you know the possible referrer, the more likely you’ll get a positive response. Asking someone you barely know for anything, let alone a job, is usually less effective than asking a friend. Keep this in mind when contacting your sister’s boyfriend’s cousin for a job at his company.
However, you can still ask someone you don’t know that well for a job referral if you do it correctly. It will take longer than asking a friend, but it is possible. Respect their time, explain that you’d like to get to know their company more and ask for a referral only after you’ve built basic rapport over a few messages.
My name is Leo Thom and I’m an Economics senior at UC Davis. You may not remember me, but we interned together at Intel Corporation in 2013.
I’m sending a brief note to learn more about your experience at _______ . I’d love to get your career advice for 15-20 minutes. A couple of my friends also work in web development and after hearing about how much they love their jobs, I get more and more interested.
Do you think I can pick your brain about your job and how you chose it? I’d really appreciate learning how you made your decision after working at Intel.
I can meet you at your office, over the phone, or over email—whatever is most convenient for you.
Can we meet sometime this week?
- Mutual bond. Notice in the first paragraph I explain who I am (an upcoming graduate) and where we know each other from (shared Intel Corporation internship). This can also work for university alumni you’ve never met.
- Flattery. The second paragraph is about your recipient. We all love talking about ourselves and our accomplishments – play to this dynamic. Flatter your target by seeking their advice, elevating their status within the conversation, and by sprinkling compliments in your request (“after hear about how much they love their jobs…”).
- Easy to follow-up.The email request makes it easy for the recipient to respond. I even give them the options of in-person, over phone or over email – busy people like to respond on their terms, so be flexible when seeking advice.
Write the email yourself
The less work your referrer has to do, the more likely they will have the time to help you. Save them some effort by writing the referral email yourself.
Here’s an example one to get you started.
Thank you so much for referring me! Here’s an example email you can pass along to the hiring manager – please feel free to edit as you see fit:
Hi [Hiring Manager],
My past colleague Leo Thom is applied for the Associate Web Developer position on the Communications team and wanted to learn more about the role. I worked with Leo at Intel on several projects and know he’d be a great addition to the team. Can he get in touch with you for a quick chat about the role sometime this week?
Please let me know if you have any questions – don’t hesitate to let me know if there’s anything I can do in return!
- Convenience + Flexibility. You do 99% of the work for your referrer and give them the flexibility to edit the message to their liking.
- Clear action and connection. Your email to the hiring manager shows you’re a serious candidate since you already applied and have worked with one of their current employees in the past.
- Easy to follow up. The email ends with a simple yes-no question. And given your referrer is asking for you, the hiring manager is more likely to say yes to an employee request versus a request from an outsider she doesn’t know.
It’s clear job referrals are an effective way to getting hired. Reaching out to your network can literally change your life.
- Apply to the job
- Identify your “In”
- Write the email yourself
If you’re interested in more email scripts to help with your job hunt, check out my article on emailing recruiters and getting responses.