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February 18, 2015

Making a Referral Into a Great Company Work for You

You really want to work at great company XYZ, but not sure how to get in the door. You’ve done your research about ways to make this happen and know that getting referred in by a current employee is one of the most effective ways to get noticed by great company XYZ.

Through networking, begging friends, or having a family member that works at company XYZ by happy coincidence, you’ve been referred in to great company XYZ as someone who is worth talking to about a potential position. Here are some tips on how to use that referral to get a job at a great company.

Take it seriously. The person who introduced you to the potential employer is putting their reputation on the line — for you. In certain organizations, this may not be a big deal. In other organizations — it can be a big difference at year end review time. Either way, at least some part of their reputation is on the line for you. If you blow off the introduction call, or are late or unprepared. It makes you look bad — and your friend even worse.

You got a chance, that’s it. Sometimes, folks who are referred into a company believe they have a special dispensation that will afford them the ability to glide through the interview process, be handed a lucrative offer, and walk directly to their desk or office to begin their job. The thinking might go a little like this:

Company XYZ already thinks my friend is great. My friend told Company XYZ how great I was. Ergo, Company XYZ should already understand how great I am. When do I start?

This is flawed logic. Your friend’s referral got you a chance to speak with someone at the company — something that most applicants who submit resumes through job sites and emails never ever get. The rest is up to you.

Prepare accordingly. The potential employer may start by suggesting an informal chat over the phone or maybe even over coffee at their office. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is anything but the beginning of the screening and interview process. The probability of getting an offer out of an “informal chat” is pretty low, thought I have seen it before. The probability of the “informal chat” being the end of the line for you in the process is a lot higher. Be prepared to answer basic job screening and personality questions.

Direct vs. indirect connections. Getting referred to the hiring manager is best. This gives you the opportunity to speak directly to the person making the decision. But, your friend may not have a direct connection to the hiring manager for the job positing that you believe is a perfect match for you within the company. Instead, he or she may refer you to someone inside the organization who can refer you to the hiring manager. If not possible to speak directly to the hiring manager, a person within the organization who can directly refer you into the hiring manager is a great way to get an “in” at an organization that you are truly passionate about. However, this puts the onus on you to stand out in your very first meeting or discussion. The person you’re meeting with needs to make a decision, usually within a half hour of meeting you, whether or not to refer you along to the hiring manager, and put some part of their own reputation on the line for you.

Remember to thank. No matter which way the process turns out — got an interview or not, hired or not hired — your friend did you a huge favor. Out of every candidate’s resume that is sitting in a stack at the hiring manager’s office, your friend successfully moved your name to the top of the list. Say Thanks in a meaningful way. This could be the deciding factor whether your friend ever decided to refer you again in the future.

Matthew Mamet is Product Director at TripAdvisor. You can find Matthew's blog located here.  You can also follow Matthew on Twitter (@msmamet) by clicking here.