Getting Employee Referrals to Get Hired

Employee referrals can get your resume in front of hiring managers and employers right away. These inside connections can move your application further along the hiring process, ahead of all of the other candidates.

Soft and hard skills, personality fit, and other qualifications have the biggest impact on whether you get hired. But having an inside connection can get you noticed, which makes getting hired faster and easier for you.

An employee referral is a type of job references that is given to candidates from someone who is already employed by the hiring company.

Using an employee referral when applying for jobs has been shown to increase your chances of catching a hiring manager’s attention, and ultimately helps you get a job.

This employee referral article will cover:

  • Job referral benefits
  • Using your job referral network
  • How to ask for a referral from an employee
  • Common mistakes to avoid
  • How to actually use an employee referral to get a job interview

Benefits of employee referrals when looking for a job

Employee referrals carry huge weight in the hiring decision-making process. In a 2017 study, 39% of recruiters said they are more likely to use referral programs as a hiring source than any other option. Another recent study found that 40% of all hires in the US come from employee referrals. Referred hires also tend to be paid more and hired quicker than non-referred hires.

This makes sense. A professional reference from a hiring manager or employer’s coworker or acquaintance will be more valuable to a hiring manager than a stranger’s reference.

Job referrals work because hiring managers can be confident that their coworkers understand their company’s culture and values. These references show that an employee of the company is confident that the applicant will be a successful hire.

Hiring managers expect you to put your best foot forward in a job application, but when someone is putting that foot forward for you, it immediately makes your claims more credible. Basically, job referrals vouch for the quality of the candidates.

Job referrals can also help you secure an interview and may even help you secure the job— as long as you are meeting the company’s other requirements for the position.

How to use your job referral network

When you find a job to apply for, you can look through your network to find out if you know anyone who is connected to the hiring company. Remember, your job referral doesn’t necessarily have to work for the company right now.

Chances are your first thought is to consider your friends and family members, but it’s also important to think outside the box and cast your networking net as far as it will go.

Do any of your current or former coworkers have connections within this company? What about fellow college alumni, or your university’s career office? Think back to who you met at the last networking event you attended— is it possible you met a contact there?

An easy way to do this is to scan your LinkedIn connections, as it’s possible there are some networking contacts you’re forgetting about.

If you’re being open and transparent in your job search (i.e. not trying to hide it from your current employer or someone else), consider posting a request on (private) social media, like Facebook.

Rather than asking, “Can someone refer me?”, simply ask “Do I know anyone who works or has worked for [company]?”.

How to get a company referral if you don’t personally know an employee

If there’s nobody in your immediate circle that you can use as an employee referral, there are two things you can do:

1. Look beyond your immediate professional network

Maybe you have a friend, family member or coworker who could introduce you to someone who can then be your employee referral. Check professional networks online and offline, reach out to your contacts and the people you know personally and professionally.

2. Make new connections online and offline

Find someone at the company who is directly related to the position you’re applying for and try to build a relationship with them. Don’t mention the job specifically; instead, ask them for general advice.

For example, if you’re applying for a marketing internship, find the company’s marketing manager online and send them a email. Express your interest in working for their company, flatter their work, and then ask them a question that will give you fantastic insight for your application.

For example, ask, ‘What challenge is your team/department facing right now?’. You can take their answer and craft your application around how you’re going to solve that challenge.

How to ask for a job referral from an employee or connection

1. Get permission from your contact to use their name in your job application

The most important thing to do when asking for an employee referral is to explicitly ask. Make sure it’s okay with your contact for you to use their name as part of your application. They might be uncomfortable doing this for any manner of reasons, so be sure to check with them before name-dropping in your application or interview.

2. Ask for a referral in writing

It’s always best to ask for an employee referral in writing rather than over the phone. The person you’re asking for a referral may feel awkward saying no over the phone, whereas sending them an email or message can give them think to think it over.

3. Ask if your connection feels like they’re in a good position to provide a referral to you

Be sure to ask your connection if they feel they’re in a good position to offer you a referral. If they’re thinking of leaving the company, previously left the company on bad terms, or have a strained relationship with the hiring manager, a referral can actually be more detrimental than helpful.

4. Send your job referral an updated resume

Be sure to provide your contact with a copy of your resume and cover letter so they are up-to-date with your experience and qualifications, especially if you haven’t spoken to them in a while. Be sure to use our free online resume builder to update your resume before sending it over.

5. Ask for advice about your resume and application process

Your contact might have some insider tips they can pass on to strengthen your application, so be sure to ask for them. Inquire who is the best person to send your resume to, and ask if there are specific skills worth building into your resume.

For example, if the company uses Google Suite to organize its documents, you’ll want to mention your experience with this in your application.

6. Keep your referral updated on how your application is processing and thank them for their help

Let your referral know if you’ve mentioned their name in your cover letter, and advise them as soon as you’ve submitted your application.

Keeping this communication open is a win-win because your contact can also keep you updated on the hiring process if they hear anything within the company.

Finally, be sure to thank them— both when they offer the referral and after they’ve made it!

Referral request email template

Wondering the best way to structure your request for a referral?

Be sure to mention the specific job that you’re applying for, and keep your message succinct.

Job referral email template:

Hi [Recipient Name],

I hope this message finds you well. [Insert a personal anecdote, like where you met or ask them for an update on their life]. I’m in the middle of job searching at the moment and am interested in applying for the open [position] position at [company name].

Do you have any advice, and might you be willing to put in a word for me? I’m attaching my resume for your reference. Please let me know if you have any questions.


[Your Name]

Common mistakes with employee referrals

DON’T ask if there are any job openings within your contact’s company.

This is not the same as asking for an employee referral. It’s far more polite to do your research beforehand and specifically mention an open position in your request.

DON’T rely on your contact to send your resume on.

Instead, ask whom you should get in contact with and make that initial outreach yourself. There’s always a chance your contact will forget about your request.

DON’T imply you want to work with the company simply because your contact works there.

It’s important to show the hiring manager that you have other motivations for wanting to join the company.

Advice on using an employee referral to get an interview

Finally, you’re probably wondering how to use your employee referral to your advantage once you’ve secured one.

In an ideal situation, your contact will take it upon themselves to reach out to the hiring manager on your behalf and let them know to keep an eye out for your application.

However, it’s also important to build your referral into your application.

With their permission, use the name of your referral in your email and cover letter. You can say something like, “I recently spoke to (name) who recommended I reach out to you about (position). Based on our conversations, I am confident I am the best fit for the role because (reasons and qualifications)”.

You can also mention your employee referral in your interview. However, it is important to make sure all references to that person are strictly work-related.

Instead of saying “my friend works here so I’d love to work here too”, let them know how you know this person in a professional capacity, and how their interest in their job ignited your interest in working for the company as well.

By following these tips, you’re ensuring you’ve put your best foot forward to make a positive first impression— perhaps even before you send your application!