Why, How, and When to Ask for a Referral
A referral can add some serious legitimacy to your job application, but how should you go about asking for one? And when is the best time to do that? Let’s let our experts weigh in on asking for a referral in a way that builds and keeps connections with your former employers.

Why?

Jessica, Hiring Expert at Cardinal Health shares about the importance of a referral saying, “Referrals are great because they show that someone felt strongly enough about a candidate’s capabilities to pass their information along.”Ref Link
 
Carrie, Hiring Expert at AT&T Inc., adds that, “Referrals are an excellent source for recruiters as they typically provide additional knowledge about a candidate over and above what one would learn from their resume.”Ref Link

Jonathan, Hiring Expert at Avery Denison Corporation explains that, “If it’s coming from a trusted source the candidate has already established a line of credibility in the hiring managers eyes. In addition, if the individual that's doing the referring is top talent there is a general mindset that top talent typically refers top talent.”Ref Link

How?

Makailyn, Hiring Expert at Textron Inc. says that, “The first step in asking someone for a referral is determining who would be the right person to ask. Try to pick someone that you have worked with whether that be through class, work, or a volunteer organization who can speak about your work ethic. Next, you will want to make sure it is someone you trust to say honest, positive things about working with you...It is also good to provide them with any information about the position/company that you are asking them to refer you to so that they can speak to that if they were to be contacted.” Ref Link

Tony, Hiring Expert at Hill-Rom, highlights that, “Once you have identified who could speak on your behalf in an honest as well as positive light, it is important that they are comfortable being a reference for you and that they are aware of the position you are applying for. The next thing would be giving them a time frame of when to be expecting this conversation. If someone is not completely comfortable taking a phone call, then an email or written document can be used as well.”Ref Link

Most employers would be happy to provide a reference for you but it’s still best not to assume. Ashley, Hiring Expert at Cardinal Health, advises, “Since not everyone is comfortable being used as a reference, I think an email or written communication would be the best way to approach the topic. This gives them an ample amount of time to think about it before responding.”Ref Link

When?

Ashlyn, Hiring Expert at Worthington Industries, points out that, “It's important to first make sure your current employer is aware that you are searching for a new position. This should not come as a surprise if you are approaching graduation. I would let them know that you are starting to apply for various positions and that they require a referral.”Ref Link

Being upfront and honest with your supervisor about looking for another job is important if you’d like to use them as a reference, now or in the future. Carrie, Hiring Expert at Textron Inc. shares, “It's important that your current employer knows you are looking for new opportunities so they aren't surprised when you ask them for a referral. If you are still in college or working as an intern, they should understand why you are asking for a referral.”Ref Link

Ashley, Hiring Expert at Cardinal Health, points out that “Timing is also important. When you ask someone to be a reference, make sure it's around the time you are applying for jobs. You don't want to ask someone if they won't be contacted until a year later.”Ref Link

Asking for a referral (like most things) is best approached with honesty and tact. If you’ve worked hard, been timely, and proven yourself to be an asset to your team your supervisor should be happy to provide you with a referral. Ultimately, it’s the experience and education on your resume that will land you a job but a referral can get your resume in the right hands.

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