How to Become Referred for a Great Job – Part 3

The combination of effective networking, the hidden job market, and employee referral programs produce the most powerful way to land your dream job.

In Part 1 of How to Become Referred for a Great Job we explored employee referral programs and how they are the most effective method a job seeker can use to land his or her ideal job. In Part 2 we learned about the hidden job market and why it offers job seekers significant competitive advantages over applying for advertised jobs. In the final part of the series we’ll see how to network your way to becoming a referred candidate.

Networking Your Way to Becoming a Referred Candidate

To be referred to an employer requires a current employee to refer you to hiring managers, executive staff, and HR. Your network will be the primary vehicle through which you become a referral. The larger and higher in quality your network is, the better your chances of becoming a referral candidate. All network connections are not created equal. In the diagram to the left, Quadrant II provides the optimal combination of network size and network quality for becoming a referral candidate. A senior level connection typically includes director level or above (for larger employers), business owners and principals, senior practitioners, licensed professionals, board members, partners, community leaders, key influencers, and retired executives.

Becoming a referred candidate requires a significant investment of time and effort up front, from building network connections and quality to deepening network relationships. Additional effort will be spent researching the kinds of opportunities that would make sense for using this job search strategy. Following are the basic steps to take to become a referred candidate:

a. Begin by developing a target list of employers for which you’d like to work.

b. Next, begin researching what is publicly known about the employer:

i. Visit the employer’s website and attempt to locate a sitemap to direct browsing each web page. Be curious as you explore the website. Visit every page to learn about the employer’s management, history, markets, products/services, job postings, press releases, and community involvement.

ii. Next, Google the employer to see what else you can learn that is in the public domain. Set up a Google Alert on the employer so that you can see any new content as it appears on the Internet.

iii. Perform a LinkedIn and Google search to learn more about the management of the employer. LinkedIn will tell you the how you are related to each person (1st, 2nd, etc. level connections).

c. For each employer that interests you, search in your network to identify first or second level connections who work there. The steps below follow the protocol for LinkedIn, but can be adapted to other networks.

Relationship Initial Approach Next Steps
First level connection who works there and you know each other well. InMail, email, or phone and request a meeting: Would you be willing to meet with me to discuss your employer? When you meet, explain your desire to work for this employer.

Conduct a friendly informational interview.
First level connection who works there and you don’t know each other well. InMail, email, or phone and request a meeting: We are first level connections and I see you work for X. Would you be willing to speak with me about your experience at X? Conduct an informational interview to learn about the employer.

Ask if the employer has an employee referral program.
First level connection who knows a second level connection who works there. Request an introduction to the second level connection using the process outlined in this LinkedIn article.

Your objective is to conduct an informational interview.
InMail your first level connection and ask how well he/she knows the person you want to be introduced to. The answer will help you refine your approach.

d. Informational interviews are meetings with company insiders to learn more about the company. As with any informational interview, you will need to build the relationship well before he or she will be comfortable enough with you to refer your résumé to HR, a hiring manager or other decision maker. How can someone refer you if they do not know you? In most cases it is best to let him or her initiate that step.

e. If you haven’t done so already, invite him/her to become a first-level connection.

f. Make sure you follow-up your informational interview with a handwritten, mailed thank you note. Another thank you note is due when you learn he or she has referred you.

g. There are several steps you could take to cultivate the relationship while moving it toward becoming his or her referral:

i. As you find relevant and applicable articles which you believe might interest your new connection, occasionally send them to him or her. But don’t spam them.

ii. Use InMail to send a quick update note from time to time.

iii. Be alert for changes at the target company. Don’t be afraid to ask what is happening there. Insiders often have a good sense of things, and may share them assuming there is no breach of confidentiality.

iv. Ask how you may be of service to him or her. Helping others often prompts a willingness to help you. In the event you are able assist, do so promptly with your very best effort!

v. Look at his or her profile and recognize work anniversaries, new jobs and other happenings in his or her life. Use InMail or LinkedIn Notifications to recognize these milestones (but don’t stalk).

vi. At an appropriate time, ask him or her to give you some feedback on your résumé or Career Impact Matrix.

Bottom Line

It may take several months or more before your relationship with someone will result in him or her referring you. If you continue to develop the relationship, eventually your time and efforts will pay off.

This article is excerpted from the author’s 7th edition of How to Get a Better Job Faster, which explains more than 2900 career and job search best practices. New editions for college students/recent grads and experienced professionals/skilled workers.

Boyer Management Group works with some of the world’s top employers by helping them get the most out of their talented people. Our extensive leadership development course catalog provides effective skills-building for everyone in the organization, from the new / developing leader to the seasoned C-level executive. Our coaching programs produce significant results in compressed periods of time. We also help job seekers, higher ed, and employment services connect people to better jobs faster. Our acclaimed career development tools, the Job Search Readiness Assessment for experienced professionals/skilled workers and Graduate Employment Preparedness Assessment for students/recent grads both assess and explain over 2,500 career and job search best practices. To find out more, please visit us at, email us at, or call us at 215-942-0982.


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