What Is a Job Referral? It’s Your Secret Weapon for Getting Hired

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Job referral

What Is a Job Referral? It’s Your Secret Weapon for Getting Hired

How to cultivate a referral network that works for you.

A huge number of people who get hired are referred by someone within the company. This makes perfect sense when you think about it: When a hiring manager needs to choose between two equally qualified candidates, do they pick the one they know very little about, or do they pick the one who was referred by a respected employee in the company? The answer seems obvious, right?

This can be discouraging for people who don’t feel like they know anyone within the company they applied for. Should you even apply for a job when you think there’s probably someone who has access that you don’t?

We’re not here to talk about discouragement, though, because there’s some good news that people tend to overlook: You have more control over your referral power than you might think. So we’re going to share some tips for cultivating your own referral network.

Put yourself in the right place.

A big part of getting the job you want is being in the right place at the right time. A lot of us know this instinctually, but we think people often interpret this to mean they need to be lucky. That’s not what we’re saying at all.

If you know where the right place is, then being there as much as possible is going to be the secret to being there at the right time. Now, we should be careful here, as we’re straying too deeply into metaphorical language. We’re not necessarily talking about being in a physical location. What we mean is that you should make sure your circumstances are such that you could be hired at any time. Many of those circumstances are out of your control, but not all of them are. You should focus on circumstances you can change, then change them to make them right for the position you’re applying for.

Some of these are obvious. For example, if a job requires a degree, you’ll want to make sure you have that degree; it doesn’t matter if a company is hiring if you’re not qualified, right? However, there are a lot of ways to do this that are much less obvious than this. And that gets us to the point we’re trying to make here: You can cultivate a social circle of people in your industry. The goal is to try to already be on someone’s mind when they need to fill an open position. You’ll already be on their mind if you spend time in the same social circles as those people.

We understand this is easier said than done. Fortunately, we’ve already written a lot of advice about cultivating your social circle. If you want to know more, check out our “Tips and Tricks for Getting a Job with No Experience” and our guide to tapping into the “hidden job market.”

Don’t ignore online resources.

We’ve talked about managing your digital presence before, so stop us if you’ve heard this one, but every job seeker needs to be on LinkedIn. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, you should go set one up right now. Yes, we mean immediately. This article will still be here when you’re done.

According to LinkedIn’s own reporting, four people are hired through their service per minute. Because we just happen to have a calculator handy, we’re going to do some math: This comes out to 5,760 people hired per day. This is an enormously useful tool for your job search, and job seekers should familiarize themselves with how it works.

Aside from LinkedIn, there are several other ways to use the internet to your advantage. For example, you can join Facebook groups that are related to your career field. If you have positive interactions with people in those groups, you could start building an online network that way. You could also follow companies you might want to work for on Twitter, as well as people in prominent positions in those companies. Who knows? Someone important might follow you back!

These are just a few of the many ways to start building a digital presence. Just make sure that you keep things professional; your social media presence could also be a liability if you’re not careful.

Be both interesting and interested.

This is the part where a lot of people’s networking strategies fall apart. If your only goal in getting to know someone is the hope that they might hire you, you might be shooting yourself in the foot. You should always try to make genuine connections with people you’d enjoy socializing with even in a non-working situation.

Yes, every professional should value networking, but no one likes to feel like they’re being taken advantage of. The trick is to have a balanced approach, to connect with people who you enjoy talking to who also happen to work in your field. This is actually easier than it sounds, because if you’re talking to people who work in the same field as you, then you clearly have at least one thing in common. Use that as a springboard for conversation.

Ideally, networking should be enjoyable for all who are involved. You might want to dial back the “salesy” language, and don’t treat it like a job interview. Yes, you’ll want to be professional, but you also don’t want to give the impression that you’re only talking to that person because you want them to hire you.

And the other side of the coin is that you should be genuinely interesting. Trying to maintain a level of professionalism while also showing that you have a fun personality is a tightrope walk for certain, but we’ve written a whole article on how to be a more interesting job candidate, so check that out if you’re looking to learn more about this oft-overlooked facet of networking.


The thread that ties all this together is that you need to be making connections as often as possible. Networking isn’t something that happens overnight; it’s something you spend months – or even years – working on. The goal, of course, is to get a referral from someone who works for a company you’d like to work for. This is much, much easier if you already know that person. As we mentioned earlier, it’s easier to be in the right place at the right time if you’re already in the right place when the time is right.

If you’d like some help kickstarting the process, contact Staffing Proxy today. We’d love to talk about your career goals and see if we can connect you with a company you’ll love to work for.