To Be Hired, Be Referred for the Job

WorkCoachCafeBeing recommended to the employer by a current employee is usually the best and fastest way to a new job. Known as an “employee referral,” a referred candidate is five times more likely to be hired than a candidate who was not referred.

The best news is that everyone usually wins in the referral process! You get a new job, the employer gets an employee who is likely to succeed in their job, and the employee who does the referral receives a financial reward from the employer.

VERY IMPORTANT: Do NOT apply for a job until you understand how the employer’s employee referral programs (also known as “ERP”) works!

Applying too soon can make you ineligible for the program, reducing your chances of getting hired (more below).

How to Get Referred in 5 Steps

While it sounds simple, getting referred for a job is not necessarily uncomplicated or easy, especially if — when you start — you have no contacts to refer you to the employer.

1. Target your best employers.

If you don’t have a target list of employers, develop it. Now. This list helps you focus your networking and usually makes you more successful. The list can be as large as 20 or 40 potential employers, and can change over time as you learn more about them or find better employers.

If the employer has jobs you might want — currently open or not — include them on your list and explore your connections to current employees.

If friends, neighbors, former colleagues, former bosses, members of a school alumni network, or members of your LinkedIn network work (or worked in the past) for employers on your list, reach out to them. Learn all you can about the employer’s ERP and the possibility of referrals.

2. Research your target employers’ employee referral programs.

Do any of those employers have people working there, doing what you want to do? If they have jobs you might want — currently open or not — look for information about possible employee referral programs.

You want to know the program’s rules (they can differ dramatically from employer to employer):

  • Does the job you want qualify for the ERP?
  • When does the referral happen — before or after you apply?
  • Who can and cannot refer a job candidate?
  • How big is the reward for the employee who does the referral?

Many employers make the information about their ERP visible to the public on their website. Others keep the information private.

For more details, read How to Make Employee Referral Programs Work for You.

Even if you can’t find out about the ERP on the employer’s website, move on to the next step.

3. Connect with people at your target employers.

Connect with employees at those target employers to see if they are interested in referring you.

Hopefully, friends and family members are happy to refer you. Often people you don’t know well (or at all) may happy to refer you, too, after they get to know you a bit, because of the financial reward as well as the opportunity to help both you and their employer.

If information about the employer’s ERP is not public, ask the employee to look for documentation about the process and the rules for that employer’s program.

Exchange the information needed for the program’s process (more below).

4. Monitor the jobs at your target employers.

Hopefully, the jobs are posted on the employer’s website. You may be able to set up an “alert” to receive email when jobs are posted — either at the employer’s website, a site like, or a job board.

In some cases, the employee may have access to job postings before the opportunities are made public on the employer’s website, Indeed, or a job board.

5. When the right job is available, follow the ERP process to apply.

This is where understanding and following the employer’s ERP program rules are very important! Don’t blow the opportunity to be referred by not following the process correctly.

Life is never simple these days. Be sure to understand the rules each employer has for their ERP program so you can be that referred candidate.

More About Being Hired

To Be Hired, Be Find-able

To Be Hired, Be Reach-able

How to Make Employee Referral Programs Work for You

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


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 WorkCoachCafe.  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 and LinkedIn.  Follow Susan on Twitter (@jobhuntorg) and on Google+.


  1. DreamWorker55 says:

    I’m not sure how this works if you, absolutely, don’t know anyone in the company. Doesn’t this seem a little desperate in their eyes? Even though the job-seeker might be desperate.

    • Susan P. Joyce says:

      Looking desperate is not good for your job search. So, start with the people you know. Do they work somewhere you’d like to work? Do they enjoy their jobs there? Once you have identified your target employers, you’ll be surprised how many people you know who know people who work there (and they may also work there). Keep your eyes and ears open.

      Good luck with your job search!

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