By: Caroline Ceniza-Levine
“How do I ensure people in my network think of me when they hear about jobs that suit me?” – Denile
This reader is onto something by prioritizing referrals to jobs. Getting referred for a job is much more effective than submitting on your own. When I worked in-house in HR, employee referrals always got a longer look for several reasons:
1. It’s a courtesy to the employee to act on information they are giving us, in this case potential candidate names;
2. It’s advantageous to us as a company, since someone already working here probably knows better what we’re looking for and who might be a good fit;
3. Looking at referrals in general gives me a good idea of what my colleagues think we’re hiring for. If referrals are way off in skill level or culture fit, then we’re not communicating clearly enough what the company values.
You can’t rely exclusively on referrals. After all, what if you don’t know anyone who works at your dream company? However, if you’re already researching companies and reaching out to decision-makers, having your network pass you leads or refer you to jobs complements your work and increases your chances.
If you, like Denile, would like to get more job leads and referrals from your network, you need to focus on five things:
1 – Who in your network hears about jobs?
Keeping in touch with people, reconnecting after a long gap in correspondence, scheduling live meetings to deepen the relationship – all these networking activities take time. You can’t give everyone the same amount of attention, so for job search purposes, review your network to see who is likely to hear about jobs. Some people to prioritize include those who recently made a move themselves, recruiters and other HR professionals, and the very socially active (we all have friends who seem to know everything that’s going on!). Make a list of people who are likely to hear about job leads or be in a position to make referrals, and start your networking efforts there.
2 – How can you stay front-of-mind?
For that target list, you have to be the one who pops into their minds when they hear about jobs. To stay front-of-mind, you should be communicating regularly. If it’s been a while since you last spoke, start by rekindling the connection. Do not jump into job search mode – it’s presumptuous to make a request out of the blue. If you are already in touch regularly, schedule a live meeting or call where you can have a conversation specifically about your job search.
3 – Does your network know that you are looking?
Do not assume that people, even friends that you see pretty regularly, know that you are looking. You may have mentioned it, but they have since forgotten. Or when you mentioned it, they thought you meant you were just thinking about looking but haven’t started. Or they might think you don’t need or want your help. Unless someone asks how your job search is going, do not assume they know you’re still on the job hunt. You can remind people subtly by mentioning what is happening with your search – e.g., an interesting company you added to your target list, an exciting job you applied for, a meeting you had that you think went well.
4 – Do they know what you are looking for?
Even if you’re staying front-of-mind and your network knows you’re on the job hunt, you still need to go a step further and ensure they know what you are looking for. If you’re looking to change careers (e.g., different industry, different role), they may not realize that and only think of you for the exact job you’re doing now. If a particular contact knows you from several years back, they may think of you for jobs at too junior a level. If you’re leaving for a specific reason (e.g., to get a management opportunity, to travel more or less on the job), your network can’t possibly know this unless you tell them.
5 – Do they know how best to refer you?
Finally, even if your network knows exactly what you’re looking for, do they know how to talk about you when making a referral? If they pass you a job lead so you can make contact, that’s still good. But a referral, where your friend makes the introduction, is even better. Help your friend help you by sharing the top three bullet points you use to sell yourself to prospective employers and recruiters. Even better, if your friend mentions they will pass your resume onto someone or do an e-intro, respond back with specific language your friend can share, including the bullet points. Your friend will appreciate not having to do the work and you ensure your brand is communicated.
Bonus step – When is the last time you referred someone in your network for something?
I don’t believe networking should be quid pro quo – you do something for me and I do something for you. However, I do believe that overall there should be give-and-take – you do something for me, and I do something for someone else, maybe you but not necessarily. If you’re only taking, you’ll be known for that and people will stop taking your calls. If you’re only giving, you’ll burn out. There should be some balance.
To this end, when was the last time you passed on a lead or made a referral? Focusing on giving will ensure your network stays balanced. Furthermore, your past experience with referring others can give you ideas on what encourages referrals. Why did you think of that person? How can you create the circumstances so that others think of you?