Debra Feldman

Employee Referrals Matter

Here's why.

March 15, 2012
by Debra Feldman

The job market has been the victim of a perfect storm, a combination of factors that combined have dramatically altered how employers find candidates and how prospective employees connect with employers and land a new position. Anyone who has been looking for work during the past few years will bluntly tell you that despite crafting a strong résumé customized to match the key words in a job description and submitting it in the format and by the process that an employer requested, had rarely generated a response from the employer, let alone an interview or ultimately a job offer.

Traditional job search campaigns focused on having the perfect résumé and getting it into the hands of the right recruiters who then forwarded your background to their clients, employers' HR departments or the hiring authority. If your résumé showed that you had the appropriate credentials, it was likely that you would be asked for more information and sent along a vetting process up to an in-person meeting with a company representative. If not pleasant, the procedure was predictable. This all sounds familiar and actually was an accurate description of the job market until things changed. There’s no use looking back to the good old days, because the Internet is staying, and we are in the middle of a recession and it’s an employer’s job market.

Today’s employers have migrated their recruiting activities online and centered talent acquisition efforts on corporate career sites and general and specialized job boards, as well as added their presence on the social networks. Rather than request a résumé, they comb social networks for potential talent without the prospect’s knowledge. Interactions happen instantly and time zone and geographical barriers have disappeared enabling more communication at no cost between employers and candidates.

This means you need to:

  • Get out and network because referrals are the best way to source a new job.
  • Diversify your campaign by including traditional networking venues, social networking channels, recruiters, career fairs, and specialized industry career sites.
  • Manage your privacy setting and watch what you post on social networks because employers are among those visiting your profile. Don’t post anything that might be viewed as unprofessional.

According to CareerXRoads Source of Hire Report 65 percent of new hires result from internal movement and referrals. This finding has profound implications for job seekers. This proves that employee referrals do work. Therefore, you should be spending more energy and efforts connecting with employees who are most likely to recommend and help you in landing your next position.

Today it is easier than ever to find the right employee connections:

  • Don’t be reluctant to ask your contacts if they can recommend you. Provide your contacts with a short summary of your relevant background and a couple of success stories demonstrating your fit for their company.
  • Check for first, second, third and group connections on LinkedIn. Request an introduction through your own contacts. You can directly reach anyone who is also a member of a LinkedIn Group.
  • Join LinkedIn groups whose membership includes employees, former employees or others affiliated with your target company.

Why Do Employee Referrals Produce Job Offers and Acceptances?

Those who are referred often have a competitive advantage over other external prospects being informed about the potential opportunity. Smaller recruiting budgets demand less costly hiring solutions. Employee referrals come at the right price: there are no external recruiter fees or advertising expenses. Not only do employee referrals usually generate seriously interested candidates who already have at least one connection at the company, but there is also a sense of trust when an individual already familiar with and known by the organization refers someone. In addition, referred candidates can perform better during interviews because they have better access to learn about a company’s needs and challenges and be familiar with the corporate culture.

Other sources of employee contacts include:

  • Industry publications.
  • Local community and volunteer organizations that sponsor employee participation in charitable activities.
  • School alumni listings and other professional groups that have corporate affiliations.


Employee referrals work because it’s a win-win situation in which there are benefits for both you as well as the employer.

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Debra Feldman is an executive talent agent and job search expert who implements customized senior level job search campaigns.