It goes without saying that while they don't necessarily guarantee you a job, referrals are the golden tickets of any job search. At the bare minimum, a referral will mean that your CV will get looked at. If a job has 100 applicants, generally your CV will sit somewhere near the top of the pile.
(If your CV needs work, read our post on how to write a graduate CV - after you finish this blog)
By securing a referral, you infinitely increase the chances of your application being seen by either the recruiter or, if you're lucky, the hiring manager. Companies often encourage their employees to bring in referrals as it is proven that referred candidates stay at companies longer than a traditional employee would.
Additionally, not only is it more likely that they'll get someone who's a good fit culturally, referred candidates tend to know more about the company than other applicants.
In fact, a study carried out by SHRM that analysed data from more than 14 million applicants, found that employee referrals delivered more than 30% of overall hires, and nearly half of internally sourced hires.
It doesn't stop there. Further research shows that recruiters look to employee referrals for much more than just applicants and hires:
- 82% of employers rated employee referrals as generating the best ROI, above all other sources.
- Referred candidates are 55% faster to hire, compared with employees sourced through career sites.
- 88% of employers said that referrals are the best source for above-average applicants.
Why they work? 📈
There is a level of trust inherently built into an employer-employee relationship. If you're an employer and you pay someone to do a job and they perform well, you'll trust them and their judgement.
When you get a referral, it is essentially an endorsement to a potential employer of you and your talents for a specific role.
It can be as informal as your connection just passing your name onto a recruiter or hiring manager or, something common in tech companies, there is a formal process where the employee could potentially get rewarded if the person they refer ends up getting the job.
Ultimately, what it all boils down to is that with referred candidates, the hiring process will be shorter, which is very attractive to an employer because it can help their bottom line.
How to get one? 🌐
The fact of the matter is, not everyone knows someone working at a company they're applying for a job at. However, often employees actively reach out to their network on LinkedIn to find people to refer for roles at their companies.
As mentioned above, this is especially true at companies that offer financial incentives to employees for each successful referral.
While we would never encourage spamming people at companies you want to work for with connection requests, it's important that you grow your network at this early stage in your career.
Ditch the Hi, I'd like to add you to my professional network request on LinkedIn and personalise your message. Find people in roles you aspire to be in, have a look at what they've posted on their own account (or what the company has) and construct a message that you could only send to that particular person.
Your best bet is with someone who has a shared connection. If you had the same job, you went to the same school or college or you know the same people, it can often be an easy icebreaker. Ask them for 15 minutes of their time so you can go through a few questions about the company and what exactly they do in their role.
The point of this conversation is build a relationship so use it purely as a fact-finding mission and nothing else. When the company gets around to hiring again and you've build a rapport, then you'll be better positioned to ask for a referral.
How to ask for one? 🗣️
Throughout your early professional career, you'll need favours every now and again and eventually it'll get to the point where you can return it.
Until then, it’s important to develop the relationship with the person referring you for a job. Often, they are putting some of their professional reputation on the line with an endorsement of you. A reputation that, if things don't go well, could be tarnished within the company.
However, in this life, if you don't ask the answer is always no. Just be wary of putting someone in an uncomfortable position asking for a favour if you don't know them yet or haven't put the time into building a relationship.