How to Get A Referral to Your Dream Job

Author: Chris Ng

A Jobvite study found that employee referrals have the highest applicant to hire conversion rate with 67% of employers and recruiters saying that the recruiting process was shorter. But how do you get a referral from someone in a company where you have no 1st-degree connections?

There are two ways you can go about in doing this. One is by cold messaging/emailing people who work at the company, and the other is by finding someone in your network who knows someone else in that company. Essentially, finding a 2nd-degree connection where your mutual colleague is willing to introduce you to the other person.

But before we get into how to ask for a recommendation or a referral, you need to do your due diligence regarding the company and the role you are looking for in your next play.

5 Gripes Referees Have With Referral Seekers:

  1. Cold referral seekers
  2. Not serious about switching roles
  3. Not inquiring about a particular position
  4. Being demanding
  5. Asking what the trick is

1) Cold referral seekers

No one likes getting messages from someone we do not know asking for a favour. It is generally a bad idea to come out of the blue and ask a person for a referral when they have never worked with you professionally. A bad referral would prove detrimental to an employee’s reputation in the company, which is why there is quite a hesitation towards referring someone whose skills you cannot vouch for (also, is it really a referral if you do not even know that person?).

Instead, try to find mutual connections to bridge an introduction towards the referee. Otherwise, show that you are interested with specific examples rather than buzz words and rote messages.

2) Not serious about switching roles

Asking someone to take time out of their day to help you get a job at their company is a big ask. Even for a colleague, you have worked with in the past, this is a cumbersome process at most companies. If you end up making it to the funnel make sure to update your referee on your status and if you found out any deal breakers that would deter you from joining their company. Keep in mind, especially for millennials, where you work can be your identity so be sure to do so tactfully.

Changing jobs is an important life event, being transparent with your contact would serve you both better as it clears the air if either party wants to move forward with the process.

3) Not inquiring about a particular position

Most companies have all the available positions online. While a number of companies do not have their job listings fully baked into LinkedIn or have positions that are not advertised yet, it is still a good idea to identify positions that are you are interested in by browsing through their online listings. At the very least it shows that you did your homework and are serious about looking for a new role.

A great way to start a conversation with a referee is to link them job postings from their company you have seen beforehand to have a common understanding of what role you are looking for.

4) Being demanding

Sometimes there are no roles available at the moment, and while it is perfectly ok to ask someone to keep you in mind if they hear anything, it is generally bad practice to harass someone to keep checking and asking if there is something available. Remember, the employee you are trying to get a referral out of is essentially the start of your interview process.

It is always a good idea to send a thank you note to your referral after the whole process even if you did not get the job.

5) Asking what the trick is

I could not count the number of times I have been asked this question personally: “What is the trick to landing a job at [company]?”. No there is no trick, no keyword, and no secret phrase that would instantly get you hired anywhere. While it is generally harmless to ask about the interview process such as how many rounds, what type of questions, and timelines - it is frowned upon to suggest that the reason why someone got hired is that they knew a trick.

A better question to ask referees about the company is the company’s mission and vision, culture deck, technologies used, and projects they are working on (that have already been launched).

Role Play #1: Cold Referral Email Template

(Good for 3rd-degree connections!)

To: [Employee]

From: [Referral]

Subject: [Employee] <> [Referral]: Looking for a role at [Employee’s Company]

Hi [Employee]!

Sorry to bother you with this random email, [explain why they are a good fit to cold email].

[Why Referral is interested in working at Employee’s company]

[Why Referral is a good fit to work at Employee’s company]

Would a call at [proposed time] work for you? You can reach me at [Referral’s Number].



[LinkedIn Profile URL]


[Phone Number]


Role Play #2: Cold Referral Asking Message

(The right way to ease in a request to that colleague you haven’t talked to in years!)

[You]: Hey [Referee]! How have you been? How has [Referee’s Company] been treating you?

[Referee]: Hey [You]! I’ve been good how about you? Work has been great - love it here!


[You]: So I have recently been looking for new opportunities and thought [Referee’s Company] would be a good fit because [List Reasons Why]. I am particularly interested in these roles: [URLs to Jobs]

[Referee]: Sounds great! Our referral process is [Explanation of How-To of the Referral Process].


[You]: Thanks! I just did all the steps :) Will update you as I move along the pipeline!

[Referee]: No problem!

Role Play #3: Introducing A Referral Email

(How a 2nd-degree connection can help you get to that hiring manager!)

To: [Employee], [Referral]

From: [Introducer]

Subject: [Employee] <> [Referral]: Introduction

Hey [Employee],

[Something about the referral and why they would be a good fit]

Hey [Referral],

[Something about the employee and why you would like to work there]

You both do your thing!




To: [Employee]

BCC: [Introducer]

From: [Referral]

Subject: RE: [Employee] <> [Referral]: Introduction

Thanks [Introducer], moving to BCC!

Hi [Employee]!

Thanks for taking the time to talk to me!

[Why Referral is interested in working at Employee’s company]

Would a call at [proposed time] work for you? You can reach me at [Referral’s Number].



Referrals are key to any organisation’s growth. Do not underestimate the importance of your connections in the search for your next role. I even got my first full-time position through an employee referral!

Please comment below if you have any other best practices on asking for a referral from someone inside and outside your network!

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Employee Referrals Remain Top Source for Hires

Employee Referrals Remain Top Source for Hires

Indeed delivered 72 percent of interviews and 65 percent of external source of hires in 2016.


Author: Roy Maurer

percent of all hires overall in 2016 and 45 percent of internal hires, recently released data show.

Job search engine Indeed again ran away with the external source-of-hire crown (65 percent), producing twice as many hires as all other top branded external sources combined, according to the annual Sources of Hire report released by Chicago-based talent management software company SilkRoad.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Introduction to HR Technology]

The study analyzed data from more than 14 million applications, 655,000 interviews and 329,000 hires, aggregated from more than 1,000 participating companies and collected through SilkRoad's applicant tracking data.

"Employee referrals have proven success," said Amber Hyatt, SHRM-SCP, vice president of product marketing for SilkRoad. "Employee referrals have excellent conversion rates from interview to hire, as well as typically longer tenure with the organization. Recruiting teams are very aware of the benefits of leveraging employee referral programs to cost-effectively recruit, speed the time to hire and secure top talent to fill hard-to-fill positions."

Even though studies consistently show that employee referrals improve quality-of-hire and retention rates while lowering hiring costs, they are still underutilized.

"I find most organizations spend the least amount of money marketing and automating their referral program than any other single source they have," said Tim Sackett, SHRM-SCP, president of HRU Technical Resources, an IT and engineering staffing firm headquartered in Lansing, Mich. "Yet, it's their No. 1 source and their No. 1 quality-of-hire source."

After referrals, internal moves (21 percent) and recruiter-sourced hires (19 percent) make up most of the remainder of internal sources of hire.

Indeed Rules External Source of Hire

Indeed strengthened its position as the top external source-of-hire resource for employers, climbing from 58 percent of external hires and 52 percent of external interviews in 2015 to nearly two-thirds of all external hires and almost three-fourths (72 percent) of all external interviews last year. When internal and external hires were combined, Indeed nearly overtook referrals at just under 30 percent.

But while Indeed does have bragging rights in both hires and interviews, another interpretation of the data signals a misallocation of resources, according to Sackett. "Indeed does drive a ton of traffic and for many companies that's organic traffic, so you can't beat that," he said. But he cautioned that "If you're interviewing a ton from a source because you get great traffic, but you don't make many hires, it's a greater waste of time than those sources where you get a high interview-to-hire ratio."

He sees a similar problem with LinkedIn, which along with CareerBuilder was found to generate the most jobs and interviews after Indeed, though at much lower percentages.

"When I ask most companies to give me their No.1 spend, LinkedIn is almost always their largest single purchase when it comes to the source of hire, even though it's No. 7 overall," Sackett said, referring to the SilkRoad data. "If your single biggest spend is on LinkedIn, yet it's not your single biggest source of hire, you're being taken," he added.

Hiring from Outside vs. from Within

In general, external sources—whether online job boards, recruiting agencies, campus events, job fairs or walk-ins—produce the majority of interviews (62 percent), compared to internal sources such as careers sites, in-house recruiters and employee referrals (38 percent). Yet, it takes four times as many applications from external sources to get to the interview stage and twice as many interviews for a job offer. Internal sources ultimately produced 52 percent of hires in 2016, compared to 48 percent from external sources, according to the report.

"We expected to see a better conversion rate for internal sources as they produce a more well-informed applicant," Hyatt said. "Top internal sources like recruiter-sourced efforts, current employees, employee referrals and even applicants that have researched the organization on the careers site are more well-versed on the organizational culture. These applicants have more proactive insight into whether or not they are a right fit for the organization."

Hyatt added that the need for diversity of thought and additional skill sets outside the current team's makeup will continue to be an advantage for external candidates.

Job Seekers Are Online

The study found that online sources such as careers sites, job search engines, job boards and social media sites produce substantially greater recruitment results than offline sources like recruiting agencies, campus events and job fairs. Online sources produced 86 percent of interviews and 72 percent of hires in 2016.

"These findings only further cement that we live in a digital age and applicants are consumers that want an online experience that is convenient to their schedule, easy to use and provides real-time communication," Hyatt said.

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