Employers LOVE employee referral programs!
Job candidates hired through referral by employees are usually more successful as employees. They stay longer than average and are high-quality employees.
Job seekers LOVE employee referral programs! They really are the “fast-track” to a new job.
Nearly 80% of employers with 1,000 employees or more have formal programs.
A 2017 survey of hiring practices revealed that 30% of all hiring is done through referrals. (Job boards account for less than 12% of hiring.) So, if you are not exploring referrals to find your next job, you are missing the "inside track" to a new job:
Employee referral programs typically reward employees for referring someone outside the organization who is hired for a job.
Referring employees usually receive a financial reward, from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, so employees are usually interested in finding good candidates to refer.
When/if that person is hired and performs acceptably in the job for at least 90 days (usually), the referring employee typically receives a financial reward.
Today, connecting with people who can refer you is much easier than in the past. That's the good news and, sometimes, the bad news.
Rather than making a bunch of phone calls or trying to track down email addresses, Google and social media are excellent resources for finding contacts.
Start with your target employers:
Asking random people to make a referral doesn't usually work well. You could end up finding a job with an employer which is close to going out of business, and being unfocused usually makes the whole process take longer.
If you search through the jobs on LinkedIn, it will show you any connections you have to the employer along with the job posting. Then, you can reach out to them via LinkedIn without needing to do any additional research.
If you are not applying for a job through LinkedIn, you will still find it handy for identifying people who work at your target employers. Do a "people search" using the search box at the top of most LinkedIn pages. The results will show you people who are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd level connections. Then:
Then, look for contact information that enables you to reach out. If there is no contact information, try a Google search on the person's name plus the term "email address."
For example, if you wanted to reach someone named Mary Jane Smith, you would do this search on Google -- "mary jane smith" "email address" -- and hopefully Google would find a web page with contact information on it.
Check out Job-Hunt's Guide to LinkedIn for Job Search for much more information.
Like LinkedIn, Facebook also offers a "People" search capability. The most effective searches are accomplished by simply typing:
As with LinkedIn, then check the person's Facebook account to see if they have included their email address in the About - Contact and Basic Info section of their profile. If you don't find contact information, try the Google search described above.
Check out Job-Hunt's Guide to Facebook for Job Search for more information about using Facebook for a successful job search.
Informational interviews can be a gold mine for collecting information about employers, jobs, and also for learning about additional people to contact. With a good relationship with any of these contacts, you can likely receive a referral. See Job-Hunt's Guide to Informational Interviews for more information about successful informational interviews
Ideally, when you ask for a referral, the person you are asking is someone you know reasonably well. They are putting their credibility on the line by referring you, so they need to be comfortable that you would perform well in the job (and not embarrass them).
Do research in advance, if possible, to learn how their employer's referral program works.
Employee Referral Programs requirements vary widely! So, don't make assumptions! As described below, research before you reach out to understand the employer's ERP rules and the benefits to the referring employee.
You also don't want to put the relationship at risk, and, particularly if you haven't been in touch for a while, you also want to catch up with what's going on in their lives a bit too.
For example, this could be an initial message to the person who might be able to refer you. Replace the content in brackets, [like this] with the information appropriate for this situation:
Hi [first name of the employee],
It's been a few years since we worked together at [employer name], but I'm hoping you remember those times as positively as I do. I am in job search mode, and your current employer, [name of their current employer], interests me as a great place to work.
I understand from the information available on the company website that you may receive [the amount you found in your research] as a reward for referring me. So, both of us will benefit if this works. Excellent!
If possible, I would like to talk with you about your experiences working there and, of course, the possibility of having you refer me for a job [or job title]. It would also be great to catch up.
Let me know if you have time available to talk in the next few days. I'd be very grateful for any advice and assistance you can provide.
While the basic elements are the same, each employer has their own approach to the process, and every program is different!
Be VERY careful! The very act of applying before being officially referred may disqualify you for some programs, depending on the rules of that particular program.
You may need to have the employee first register you as their referral, and then you can apply as a referred candidate. Or, you may be able to apply and then be referred. Qualifying depends on the requirements of the program (more below).
Employee referral programs for large employers operate two main ways:
When you complete an online application for the job, you provide the name and contact information of the employee referring you.
There will probably be a section specifically for employee referrals (usually in the how-did-you-find-out-about-this-job section). Or, you may need to type the referring employee’s contact information into another section.
The employee who is referring you submits a form officially referring you. In many cases, they don’t need to specify the job you are applying for. Other times, they do.
After their form is accepted, you are typically notified of the referral, and invited to look at the jobs and apply.
With smaller employers who don’t have automated referral systems, the process will be different. The employee doing the referral may simply hand your resume to the hiring manager or Human Resources manager.
Referral programs typically have rules about when and how the employee earns the referral fee. Usually, the referral should happen before you apply for the job or during the job application process, as indicated above.
So, checking the ERP rules on the employer’s website — if you can — before you reach out to an employee is a very smart idea. If you can't find the ERP rules on the employer's website, then you will need to ask the employee to look for the program's documentation which may be on the "intranet" (internal, employee-only website) or through the HR organization.
Look for the employer's policy on each of these criteria:
Life is never simple these days. Be sure to understand the rules each employer has for their ERP program so you can be that referred candidate.
When you have a contact at a target employer, ask the employee to send you the rules for their employer's program. Then, make sure that you both comply with those rules to make the referral (and the reward to the employee) happen the most easily.
Understanding the program's rules, and complying with them are essential for success. I recently heard from a job seeker who had a friend send them a link to a job with the friend's employer. The job seeker immediately applied for the job and immediately disqualified himself from the employee referral program because the application was supposed to come through the employee. OOPS!
If someone has offered to refer you, be sure you have shared contact information, like this:
Also, be sure to provide the employee with:
You must both be sure that you have the information you need to complete the process successfully. You want this person to be rewarded for their kindness, and you also want the advantage that comes from being a referred candidate.
Employee referrals are a very effective way to land a job, but don't assume that all employee referral programs are alike. It is too easy to mess up and disqualify yourself permanently for an employer's program.
* Source of data: 10 Compelling Numbers That Reveal the Power of Employee Referrals.
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.