Whether you're unemployed or supported by a regular paycheck, job hunting and blindly sending out résumés can be a tiring and frustrating experience. So when the career gods smile in your direction and provide your dream position at a company where you know an employee, it can feel as though your professional traffic jam just opened onto the six-lane new-job freeway. But before you fire off that "Will you refer me?" email, consider some of these important factors that can make or break your chances at an interview.
How Do You Know Your Contact?
If your intended referrer is your best college pal or Aunt Winnie, proceed with caution. While it's great to have friends or family who can vouch for you on a personal level, many hiring managers are more interested in your professional abilities. And getting a referral from someone who can't even repeat what you do for a living may come across as a weak attempt at getting your foot in the door, not a strong recommendation. The best contact is one who knows your career progression and accomplishments.
Understand Your Contact's Position in the Company
Your dream job resides in sales and marketing, but your contact at the company works in tech support. At small companies, this link may be sufficient enough to secure you an interview, but you can't always count on it. The best referral will come from someone who is knowledgeable about the open position and the kind of requirements and experience it entails.
Put Your Request in Writing
If you decide that your contact is a strong one, then make your request in writing. Your potential referrer can then take the time to thoughtfully consider whether or not she is comfortable making an introduction before responding to you with her answer. And you give her a chance to quickly research any pertinent information regarding the hiring manager and job qualifications.
Is Your Contact Willing to Provide a Referral?
When making your referral request, ask your contact whether she is comfortable providing a referral. While you might be eager to cut to the chase by asking directly for an endorsement, a wishy-washy or noncommittal referral can be worse than no referral at all, so don't take it personally if she refuses. But hopefully you've carefully considered your relationship with this person so that the answer is a confident "Yes!"
Suggest a Pre-Interview
Even if your contact agrees to put you in touch with the hiring manager, offer to take her to lunch so you can provide her with the information she needs to deliver a strong referral. Describe your major professional accomplishments, and relate them to why you think you would be an ideal candidate for the listed position. By offering up the information she needs, you not only increase your chances of obtaining an interview, but you also make her look good to her coworkers by contributing an informed recommendation.
Say, "Thank You"
Before you even know if you've obtained the interview, send your referrer a thank-you note. You'll let her know that regardless of the outcome, you appreciate her time and effort. And even if this position doesn't pan out for you, your graciousness will keep you top-of-mind if similar positions arise in the future!
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