Tips for Making the Most of an Internal Job Referral


Savvy job seekers know that leveraging their network of contacts is a proven method for landing a new role. The need to use your network increases in importance with every year of experience – especially in a "Goldilocks" employment market where being not perfectly matched is often the kiss of death if you have no inside ambassador. Given the high payoff potential of an internal referral, it is critical to handle the opportunity with care. Here are three tips to maximize your chances of being moved to the front of the interview line when given an internal recommendation.


Dialing for dollars. Yes, the reality is your contact will likely email your resume to a hiring manager, but starting with a live conversation is the most effective strategy. If you are aware of an opportunity within your contact's company, ask if she has advice on the role, hiring process and company culture. Try to avoid meeting for just a few minutes during a busy work day if possible. Offering to buy coffee, lunch or a drink while you get the inside scoop can go a long way – and give you much more information. Be flexible and accommodating regarding the schedule. The key here is to make it very easy and appealing for your contact to speak with you. Remember, a good source can help you read between the lines of a job description and arm you with details that give you a distinct competitive advantage. Treat any referral source as gold.


Use what you learned. Just about 99.9 percent of the time your contact will ask for a resume before she makes an introduction to the manager. Don't slack here – deliver a great resume. When job seeking, your resume can open or shut doors within seconds. It guides the reader through your background and displays how much (or how little) of your responsibilities and results align with the position. Use the information from your conversation to highlight those experiences and achievements that are most relevant for the specific role. Include key words and phrases that are used by this company. Be fastidious in ensuring your resume is error-free and focused on what matters most. A poorly written resume may lose you an opportunity, plus it reflects badly on your contact. It is a waste of a great lead.


Create turnkey correspondence. A turnkey project is one that is already complete and immediately ready for use. Use this concept when working with your connections. The best way to get help from a personal connection is to make it super simple for them to help you. This means you should write a customized email that your contact can forward with no editing required. A critical component of the email is the message you would like to be sent to the manager. Think of this as a cover letter – it should be thoughtful, concise and related to the role. Confirm with your contact if she would prefer that you write it as a separate attachment, or if you should express your interest in the body of the email. If attached, the cover letter should start with how/by whom you were referred to the role, a paragraph or two about how your background makes you a compelling candidate and a closing paragraph thanking him for consideration and expressing a willingness to answer questions or set up an interview.


If you are not advised to attach a cover letter, only include in the email content that will increase your candidacy. Referring parties, especially if they view your email via their phone, often send the whole message thread without removing any of your personal correspondence. If you have any personal follow-up, send a text or a separate email string to discuss. For this correspondence, start with a new email to your contact; do not respond to a previous email chain unless requested to do so. Write a few lines thanking your contact for their willingness to make an introduction.


Next, in the body of the email write that you have included a message to the hiring manager below along with your resume attached. Skip a line or two and then transition to your letter of interest to the manager. Use a similar content structure as the cover letter, but you can be a little more informal in your first paragraph. Here is an example of an intro paragraph, "Mary Doe and I have been on the AMA ambassador committee together for two years and I know how much she enjoys her role at X company. I was thrilled to learn about your opening for a content manager focused on rebranding your online presence. That is just the type of challenge I am targeting." As with the attached cover letter, include two or three more paragraphs about your background and your desire to connect. Be sure you have contact information and a link to your LinkedIn profile in your email signature. Resume attachments sometimes don't forward correctly – so it is better to be safe than sorry.


Confirm with your contact, outside of this email, the expected process and the best time and person with whom you can follow up. It is also very helpful to send a handwritten thank-you note to your referring party. Not only is it thoughtful, it also reflects well on your professionalism and manners if it is opened at work. A recommended candidate who is polite, too, makes for a powerful combination. Keep an eye on email and voicemail so that you can respond swiftly to any messages. In short, make your internal ambassador look great for having you as a connection. It is one of the best ways to get the job and to continue to get referrals in the future.