You’ve heard the old adage a thousand times before, “it’s all about who you know.” Submitting a sleek, professional resume is obviously your first priority in the hunt for a new job, but employee referrals are the job hunter’s secret weapon. According to a recent study by Payscale, 41% of employees who landed a job because of a referral did so through family and friends and 32% got a referral from a business contact.
So, what do you do if you don’t have any inside connections? What if you’ve moved to a new city and your social circle is nonexistent at the moment? What if you’re fresh out of college and you didn’t network as well as you may have wanted? Don’t worry. Even when you don’t know anyone, getting a referral that lands you an interview is a lot easier than you think.
Message mutual friends on social media
Facebook is clearly the dominant social media outlet, and it’s likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future. As such, it’s a surprisingly great resource for finding employment leads. Your suggested friends’ list is a potential job referral gold mine. You can also use the search function on Facebook in clever ways to aid in your new career quest. Find individuals by the city they live in, where they went to school, which friends you both have in common, as well as where they work.
I suggest mixing and matching a few of these filters.
- Start off with finding people that work at the company you’ve been eyeing, and also went to the same university as you.
- Then transition to friends of friends that work where you’d like to apply.
- If you come up empty-handed with either of those combinations, just search for people by workplace
The biggest hurdle with seeking job referrals, particularly if you’re an introvert, is reaching out to someone that you barely know. It seems intimidating (maybe even a bit rude) to message someone you’re unfamiliar with, but it’s actually in their benefit to have you brought onto the team. Many companies have lucrative referral programs that incentivize current employees to suggest new hires.
When striking up a conversation with someone you barely know or don’t know at all, remember not to jump head first into a sales pitch – be tactful. Break the ice by bringing up a commonality. Build a relationship before you solicit them for a job.
Scan their Facebook page and see what pages they follow, what music or movies they’re interested in, anything that will make the inevitable questioning about their work much more acceptable.
Open up with a message like this:
“Hey there, I saw that we both know [mutual friend]. I also noticed you’re into the same [musician, book, movie] as I am. That’s awesome, I love them! I don’t mean to bother you, but I was curious if you’d be interested in chatting for a bit about [company]? Whenever you’re available, of course. No rush. I was looking to apply there and I wanted to get your thoughts on a few things before I sent in my resume. I’d love to know what you thought about [album, novel, ending of movie] too! Thanks so much.”
Always be mindful of how aggressive you’re coming off. Your main goal is to build a bridge with a prospective colleague. If you don’t receive a response as quickly as you’d like, be patient and never be too pushy.
Reconnect with your university’s alumni network
University alumni networks aren’t just for reconnecting with old college flames or long-lost roommates, they’re an ideal resource for job referrals. College is, after all, your first major networking pool and reaching out to a fellow university alum is a lot more comfortable than, say, random Facebook users. You already share a common sense of identity. Think of your alma mater as an extended group of potential colleagues.
Many of these networks are designed with the specific purpose of helping students advance their careers. If you’re still in school, head to the career center on campus. They often maintain large databases of alumni information, so see if they’re able to get you in contact with recent graduates.
Scope out the university’s website and find the alumni section. In this digital age, colleges often utilize some form of external platform that you can log into. You should have access to these areas for a lengthy period of time after graduation, but it’s simple to sign back up if you’ve been out of school for a while.
Additionally, college career centers host job fairs and similar networking events that are open to the public. Consider attending one whether you live near your old school or you’re in a new city.
Scour Linkedin for employees
Hopefully, you’ve been diligently growing your LinkedIn network. If you haven’t, well then, open a new browser tab and either build your profile or start expanding your network immediately. LinkedIn is hands down your best chance at securing a job referral from someone that actually works in the career field your applying to. It’s perfect for when you absolutely, positively don’t know a single person that can refer you for a job.
Follow these steps:
- Search LinkedIn for the job you want.
- If you already have a profile, browse your first and second-degree connections.
- Research what you can about the company and find someone currently employed there (either inside or outside your LinkedIn network).
- Politely introduce yourself and try to set up a meeting over coffee or lunch
- Ask specific questions related to their business.
Once you’ve found a contact in your industry, try and set up an “informational interview”. This is where you field questions about the nature of the company and their particular position. Not only will you gain valuable insight into the business, if you impress the contact well enough, you have an opportunity to be referred for the position you want.
You can be far more direct with your LinkedIn pitch as opposed to the Facebook example from earlier.
“Hello [LinkedIn Contact],
I’ve been following the work of [company] for some time now and I’m considering submitting my resume for [position]. If you have a moment, I was interested in asking a few questions regarding the application process. It would be great to get an insider’s perspective on [company product] as well. Were there any issues that arose with that project? Has it been successful? I appreciate your time. I look forward to finding out all that I can about [company].”
An added benefit of cold-emailing employees like this is that its good practice for when you finally reach the interview stage. Even if you aren’t able to set up a meeting, that person is likely to tell you how to get in touch with someone that can assist you. Ultimately, that’s what you’re trying to accomplish.
Join a meetup website
What’s better than a networking event? I know, you’re probably thinking anything is better than a networking event. However, there are a handful of websites out there that make networking much more tolerable.
These sites are perfect for chatting with professionals with inside information about your industry and meeting people that can refer you to recruiters:
- Meetup – Perhaps the largest networking website out there. Meetup has a dedicated job search page to help you find business socials in your area
- Eventbrite – Used by organizers to promote, plan, and even sell tickets (if necessary) to area events
- Eventful – An online calendar and local event tracking website that includes a networking category
- Reddit – The /r/meetups page on Reddit primarily organizes social networking events, but you never know who you might run into.
There are a few things to keep in mind when joining a networking website. Be wary of only mingling with other unemployed people. You’re there to find work and neither of you are in a position to help one another at the moment.
Events with low attendance can also be an issue, particularly if you’re in town with a small population. Try not to waste your time if it doesn’t seem worthwhile.
Avoid sites like Craigslist when looking for gainful employment. While it may help with an entry-level job search, you run the risk of being scammed. I once attended what I originally thought was a networking event which turned out to be a bizarre attempt to pitch multi-level marketing (read: pyramid scheme) to the few confused individuals that showed up.
Getting a job referral doesn’t have to be about who you know. It just takes a little initiative.
About the Author:
Lauren McAdams is a career adviser and hiring manager at ResumeCompanion. She’s been quoted by sites like Forbes, Huffington Post, and TechRepublic. When she’s not busy helping job seekers, she’s sipping on coffee or a glass of wine – depending on the time of day of course.