3 Strategies to Land a Job Using Employee Referrals

By Kate Rodriguez

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Employers LOVE employee referrals. Getting recommendations from their current employees about applicants for their open positions saves them time and money. It simply takes some of the heavy lifting and cost out of recruiting and retaining staff. Just think: when an organization posts a choice vacancy, they receive hundreds if not thousands of applications. Who wants to sort through that deluge? Applicant tracking software facilitates the initial screening process, of course, but it can still leave hiring managers with a stack of resumes to wade through. By using personal referrals from their own employees, however, companies speed up the process considerably by prioritizing the referred applicants for interviews.

In Jobvite’s 2015 Recruiter Nation Study, 78 percent of organizations responded that they find their best quality candidates through referrals, up from 60 percent in 2014. Finding candidates through referrals doesn’t just save time on the initial hiring process, it saves money over the long haul, too. Studies show that employees hired through a referral process are more likely to get through the interview process faster, finish training and onboarding sooner, and stay at the company longer. No wonder companies pony up lavish bonuses, including cash, laptops, iPads or extra vacation days for employees who refer a successful hire.

It’s clear that, as a job-hunter, your best bet is to be referred  for a position. But how do you go about doing it if you don’t have a close connection on the inside? Try using these strategies to make referrals work for you.

1. Get Out There Socially

Many referral relationships start on social media. You would be surprised how many connections you really have once you start expanding your network on LinkedIn or Facebook. As a first step, create a bang-up professional profile that clearly explains your value and the kind of work you are looking for.  Next, make sure you’ve connected with everyone you know – this means current and past work colleagues, friends, family and people you’ve met through volunteer, religious or other activities. Join college alumni groups, former company alumni groups and other professional groups in your target industry to broaden the base of contacts.  

Once you’re nice and networked, you can begin to see whom you know who’s working in an organization you want to work for. If it’s a first-level connection, contact him or her to learn more about the company and position, and ask for a referral. For second-level connections, begin by leveraging your mutual connection. Send a message like this: “Dear Susan, I notice that we are both connected to Joe, who’s my former boss at Company X. I’m currently in a career search for a mid-level pharmaceutical sales role and see that you work for Pharma Company Y.” Explain your interest in working for her organization and ask if she has time to answer a few questions by phone or in-person. After learning more about her company, consider asking her for a referral.

2. Work It In Person

Nothing online quite takes the place of face-to-face networking. More than likely, there are professional organizations in your area that serve as gathering points for people like you. These might be business associations, a Toastmasters chapter, an alumni chapter, or an industry-specific professional group. Commit to becoming more involved in a few of these groups if you are not already, and make a point of letting people know about your current job and where you’d like to work next. It’s one of the best ways to hear about potential job openings and secure a referral from someone inside the organization.

If you can’t find a group that allows you to make the connections you need, try looking on Meetup for get-togethers around themes that interest you professionally. Also, don’t ignore volunteering as a great way to build friendships as well as a network of potential referrals.

 3. Leverage Company-Hosted Referral Platforms

As employee referral programs (ERP) become a standard recruitment mechanism for companies, many have set up their own platforms to make the process even faster. Consulting giant Accenture, for example, allows candidates to upload a resume and use their own social media search tool to find connections who already work for the firm. This may be, in principle, no different than you managing it yourself, but a platform like Accenture’s makes it easier. And it might even give you an advantage since your application enters through a different, preferential channel.

When you see a job announcement that interests you, check the company’s website to see if they have an ERP. Companies are increasingly publicizing this recruitment strategy to encourage more applicants. BoozAllen touts its program on the career page, for instance, and even shows your LinkedIn connections at the company if you have any. Even if an organization doesn’t mention an ERP on its site, it probably has one. Look up the company’s profile on Glassdoor or dig around in Quora to find out more before approaching your contacts on social media.

Employee referrals are actually nothing new – employers have always preferred hiring people who’ve been recommended by someone working at the organization. But largely thanks to social media, companies can now formalize this previously informal process to their great advantage. For you, the candidate, referrals can open the door to the best jobs where competition is fierce. Never before has the phrase “it’s who you know” been more pertinent.

photo credit: Flickr/Nan Palmero


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