Referrals Close the Sale for a Successful Job Search

WorkCoachCafeLike it or not, conducting a successful job search is very similar to making a sale — the salesperson (a.k.a., the  job seeker) convinces the customer (a.k.a., the hiring manager) to make a purchase (hire the job seeker).

Being referred by an employee gives you the inside track to make that sale — to land that new job.

Research shows that job candidates referred by employees are five times more likely to be hired than candidates who are not referred.

Any successful salesperson will tell you that the secret to making the sale is to put yourself “in the shoes” of the customer — what are the customer’s major concerns?

The same can be said for a successful job seeker. The secret to a successful job search: putting yourself “in the shoes” of the hiring manager. Think like your “customer” — What does that hiring manager want and need and what do they want to avoid?

The Hiring Manager’s Goal

Regardless of the position being filled, that hiring manager wants to hire someone who will do the job well, making the manager look good. Ideally, the new person will fit into the organization smoothly, being likable as well as competent.

Hiring the “wrong” person can be a large income-reducing and credibility-killing mistake for the person who makes the “bad hire.”

The Risks Faced by the Hiring Manager

Let’s take a look at the process from the other side of the desk — understand how the process looks to the hiring manager so you can address those issues and get hired.

The hiring manager faces a big “down side” if they hire someone who doesn’t do the job well:

  • You need to explain to your boss why you hired that less-than-stellar employee.
  • You appear to have bad judgement in evaluating people as potential employees.
  • Your own compensation may drop if the bad employee is in a position to impact how your employer measures your performance and rewards you.
  • You must accept sub-standard performance from that new employee, possibly impacting other employees and also customers.
  • You must work harder (yourself or your whole team) to fix what isn’t done well.
  • You may need to spend the time and money to train that employee to be better at their job, if possible.

Consequently, people in the position of hiring a new employee make their best efforts hire a good employee. You would too, in their shoes.

Finding Job Candidates

So, how do you find the best job candidates to minimize your personal and professional risk?

  • You ask employees for names. You ask other employees and maybe post the job internally so that anyone who knows anyone who might be a “good fit” is identified and contacted. The company may even reward employees (a.k.a. “employee referral program”) who refer someone who is successful in the job.
  • You check your own network. Someone you already know personally or professionally might be appropriate and interested. Or, someone in your network might know someone appropriate for the job.

And, most likely, the organization also posts the job for “outsiders” to find and apply.

Who Would You Hire?

When the whole process is over  — taking much of your time, as the hiring manager, and the time of other employees — you have these two people to choose from:

  • Bob, the stranger

Bob responded to the job posting. He has a great resume and performed well in the interviews. In the interview, he made a stellar presentation as a “sample” of his work (and one of the job’s requirements).

Other members of your team who interviewed Bob said he did fine and thought he’d be good at the job. The HR person says Bob meets the requirements specified in the job description. His references said good things about him, and he passed the background check.

  • Bill, the former colleague of a co-worker

Bill worked with your co-worker Steve for 2 years in his last job, and Steve knows Bill is smart, reliable, honest, and a hard worker. He respects Bill and his work and knows several other people who feel the same way about him. Everyone who interviewed Bill liked him.

Bill made a good — but not outstanding — sample presentation in the interview. Bill probably needs more experience and maybe some training to give better presentations, but Steve says Bill’s a fast learner. HR says Bill meets the requirements specified in the job description. Bill’s references checked out, and he passed the background check, too.

If Bill stays in the job at least three months and is a “good” performer in the position, Steve will get an employee referral bonus of $2,000. If Bill stays six months, performing well in the job, Steve will receive an additional $2,000. To be sure that he receives his employee bonus, Steve has promised to help Bill get started, answering any questions he has and helping him learn the new job as quickly as possible.

And the Winning Job Seeker Is?

Although both candidates seem well-qualified, my bet is that you would hire Bill, even though he isn’t the “perfect” candidate. Hiring the networked applicant (Bill) is usually “safer” than hiring than the stranger (Bob).

  • Bill already has an ally in the group (Steve), helping him to learn the job quickly and fit into the group more easily.
  • While Bob was very impressive in the job interview, most hiring managers have experienced hiring people who interview very well, but are poor workers. And, no one in the group really knows Bob, so no one can vouch for him.

Given the circumstances, Bill is much less likely to be a “bad hire.” Assuming that Steve is liked by most of his co-workers and managers, Bill will have a group of people happy to help him, as Steve’s friend, to succeed. And, of course, Steve will be there helping Bill, too.

BINGO! This is why networking is the way most people find their job!

More About Successful Job Search

To Be Hired, Be Referred for the Job

Find Your Inside Track to a New Job

Express Lane to a New Job: Employee Referral

Why Referrals Close the Sale for a Successful Job Search

3 Bad Assumptions About Networking

How to Have a Successful Job Search Today

Why Isn’t LinkedIn Helping My Job Search

Is Your Job Search Too Old-Fashioned?

10 Steps to Successful Job Interviewing


About the author…

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 2011, Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoach since then.  A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Susan also edits and publishes, is a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and a columnist on HuffingtonPost, AOL Jobs, and LinkedIn.  Follow Susan on Twitter (@jobhuntorg) and on Google+.

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