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Career Monday: 14 Personal Referral Strategies to Land a Job or Advance Your Career

A recent survey found that referrals are the number one source for external hires. Almost 65% of all openings are filled through internal movement and referrals, according to the CareerXroads Source of Hire Report. If you’re hunting for a job, it pays to put your time and effort into cultivating your contacts.

After all, maybe the internet has made it a little too easy to apply for jobs. Companies typically receive hundreds or even thousands of responses to any posted vacancy. To find qualified candidates more efficiently, they’re turning to their own employees for leads.

Grow your network and uncover connections to key contacts at the companies where you want to work. Use these tips to guide you through seeking personal referrals.

Collecting Personal Referrals

1. Give generously. Offer something of value before you ask anyone for a favor. You’ll feel happier with yourself and your kindness will often be returned.

2. Participate on Linked In. The premier professional network makes it easy to find key leaders in any industry. Polish up your Linked In profile, share articles, request introductions, and contribute to group discussions.

3. Volunteer your services. Meet other professionals by organizing a fundraiser for an animal shelter or pulling weeds at your local park. Board members and other volunteers may be able to open doors for you.

4. Join your professional association. Professional associations make it easy to zero in on other players in your field. Sign up for the welcoming committee or speakers’ bureau.

5. Contact your alumni association. Your alma mater is another valuable resource. School spirit creates a powerful motivation to help each other out.

6. Talk with your employer. Do your part to encourage more referral making. Ask your employer about starting or expanding such a program. Propose incentives and techniques like bonuses and mobile apps.

7. Ask directly. Ensure others know that you want referrals. Tactfully mention what kind of opportunities you’re looking for and the services you can offer.

8. Look around. You may discover promising leads in unlikely places. Tell your hairdresser what you do for a living. Her next client may be someone you can add to your network.

Using Personal Referrals

1. Act promptly. Take advantage of the opportunity to make yourself known before vacancies occur. That way you’ll face less competition and employees may be able to share more information if no formal hiring process is underway.

2. Drop names. There’s no need to feel awkward about relying on a referral. Mention the name of the colleague who referred you if you’re leaving a voice mail, and briefly explain your relationship if you’re sending an email.

3. Back it up. Of course, you also need to sell yourself. Research the company and rehearse your pitch. Once you’re hired, becoming a top performer will reflect well on your contact too.

4. Spread out your efforts. Broaden your network instead of relying on the same colleagues for one referral after another. They’re likely to be more responsive to occasional requests.

5. Think long term. While your friends and family may be full of valuable leads, they may not pan out overnight. Networking is an ongoing process, so stay in touch and keep each other updated.

6. Express thanks. Make others feel good about giving you referrals by letting them know how much you appreciate their assistance. Write handwritten thank you letters or invite them out to lunch.

Racking up personal referrals makes it easier to land a great job and advance your career. Tap into your network so you can position yourself as one of the recommended candidates that employers are looking for.

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