How to Get Job Referrals
by Tag Goulet
Have you ever wondered how others get job referrals? Think back to the last time you watched an awards show such as the Academy Awards. As each of the winners got up to accept their award, did you hear anybody say: “The reason I’m here is because of how hard I alone worked to get here. I did it without any help from anybody else. There’s nobody I want to thank.”
That doesn’t sound familiar, does it? Instead, you probably heard the winners thank their families and many other people who have helped them along the way.
It’s not only award-winners who succeed with help from others. Many job-seekers find that other people can be a valuable source of job leads and referrals. Even if no one you know is in a position to hire you, they may be in a position to refer you to someone else.
There’s a theory called six degrees of separation which was made famous in a play and film of the same title. According to this theory, every person in the world is connected to every other person through only six (or fewer) steps. For example:
1. You know Anne
2. Anne knows Bob
3. Bob knows Chris
Chris is therefore connected to you through only three degrees of separation. Now, what if Chris is someone with influence, who could hire you or recommend you for a job where he works?
Get Job Referrals from Your Network
Think about all of the people you know, family and friends alike. In that vast network, is there anyone who is working in a field where they would be likely to connect you with someone who could advance your career?
The answer is very likely to be yes. Remember, you don’t need to know someone who is working in the field you want to pursue; all you need is to know someone who knows someone who knows someone, etc.
Use your network to start getting the word out that you are looking for work in your field, and that you want to get job referrals to people who might be able to hire you.
Not sure who to ask for referrals? Start with your parents, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, in-laws, other relatives, friends, spouses friends, acquaintances, neighbors, customers, co-workers, former co-workers, people you attended school with in other words, mention your job search to everyone you know.
Why Do People Make Job Referrals?
The first person who refers you will be someone who knows and trusts you, and will help you out simply for that reason. But from that point on, each person who agrees to refer you or interview you will do so because they know and trust the person who has referred you to them.
Keep in mind that someone who doesn’t know you may have little to gain by recommending you. While some companies pay a bonus to employees who refer a new hire, most do not. And when was the last time you heard that someone got a raise or promotion because they recommended the perfect person for a job?
Instead, someone who refers you puts their reputation on the line. If you perform poorly in an interview or on the job, it reflects badly on the person who recommended you.
Despite the risk, people continue to make referrals. Usually, it’s because someone they know and trust asked them to, and they want to help a friend out. But, as you can see, a simple referral isn’t entirely risk-free for the person who makes it.
Show Gratitude When Getting Job Referrals
The best way to keep being referred by contacts who don’t know you is to always be polite and professional. Each person who recommends you must see you as a serious potential candidate — there should be no doubt that you will reflect well on them.
One way to be seen as a professional is to remember to thank the people who make introductions for you. A thank-you email or card is appropriate for anyone who makes a referral. For someone who is especially helpful, consider showing your appreciation with a gift basket, a flower arrangement for their office or another thoughtful gift.
When someone recommends you and you do a fabulous job, then they’ll be able to take the credit for seeing your potential in the first place. And remember to return the favor by helping other job-seekers get job referrals once when you are in position to do so.