A recent article in The New York Times (“In Hiring, a Friend in Need Is a Prospect, Indeed“) highlighted the effectiveness of an internal referral by another employee, particularly in comparison with applying through a job board with no connections inside of the employer.
According to studies quoted in the Times article, being referred by an employee is the “express lane” to a new job:
- A candidate who is referred is twice as likely to be interviewed, according to a study of one employer by 3 New York Federal Reserve bank economists.
- That same study also showed that referred candidates who are interviewed are 40% more likely to be hired.
- A Sodexo study showed that Sodexo is ten times (10!) more likely to hire a referred candidate than any other applicant!
Wow! While this data is impressive, anyone who has worked in HR has seen it in action. This is why many employers reward employees for recommending a new hire though employee referral programs.
[Related: To Be Hired, Be Referred — how it works.]
Employee Referrals = Your Network at Work in 7 Steps
How do you connect, or re-connect, with your network? Here’s a 7-step process.
1. Attitude Change: Networking = Fun
Networking is not attending boring meetings in large rooms filled with strangers. At least not most of the time.
The reality is that you won’t do much networking if it isn’t fun for you, unless you are incredibly disciplined or desperate. So find a way to make it fun. Do things you enjoy as part of your networking, whether it’s taking a walk or a jog, eating at a restaurant, or having a glass of your favorite wine (or fruit smoothie) at a bar (or a McDonald’s), taking a class, or…
OK, I know viewing networking as fun is asking a lot of introverts and others who prefer their own company or the company of a very few close friends. But the reality is that, in these days of “economic readjustment” and layoffs, we all need to keep our networks alive and thriving. It helps us succeed at our jobs, and it also clearly makes a job hunt much easier.
I’ve heard so many job seekers refer to networking as “using people.” If that’s how you view it, you need to change your approach and your attitude. Networking should be mutually beneficial to all members. You help those in your network as much, if not more, than they help you.
2. Make Networking a Daily Activity
Networking is much more effective if it is done before you need that referral, not when you are deeply into your job search. That means it needs to be part of what you do every day. After a while, it becomes easier (and more fun). Maybe it’s only sending an email to an old friend or calling an old friend to wish them happy birthday. Maybe it’s coffee with a new friend. Maybe it’s attending a meeting or having lunch with people you went to college with or former clients or former colleagues or…
3. Be a Giver
Networking is about helping people you know and like to succeed. If you are just asking for help or requesting favors without helping in return (or, better, first), you won’t be a very successful networker.
4. Identify Your Network
Who’s in your network? The easy answer is family and friends, including neighbors and former neighbors, people you grew up with, people you have gone to school with, people you played sports with, people you met in local social events (from your kid’s school events to the neighborhood or organizing Saturday cookouts), and on and on.
Your network also includes people you work with now or have worked with in the past, plus current and former customers or clients, current and former suppliers, current and former co-workers and bosses and subordinates, people you met at professional and industry association meetings, people you met in the pizza place in your building who work for the employer down the hall or on a different floor, and so on.
5. Connect with Your Existing Network
These days, you can do much of it at your computer via email or Skype. If you have lost track of members of your network, use the Internet to track them down:
- Facebook. I am NOT a big fan of Facebook (privacy!), but it has enabled me to connect with my older friends from grade school, junior high, high school, and college. Just search on some names from your past – people who were important to you and respected by you – connect, and catch up on their lives since you last met.
- LinkedIn. Of course! I am a big fan of LinkedIn, particularly the LinkedIn Groups. I belong to several “corporate alumni” groups from several of my former employers plus, natually, college and graduate school alumni groups. These Groups are gold mines for all kinds of networking, including – of course! – job search. If you don’t find one for a former employer, start a Group. It’s a great excuse to connect.
- Google. Find more corporate alumni groups and long-lost friends using Google. Simply Google their names. With luck Google will also show you their LinkedIn Profiles so you can see what they are doing now, where they live and who they work for now, as well as their former employers.
Once you have found some members of your network, use Google or Superpages.com to find their current phone numbers and reach out, if you cannot connect with them via Facebook or LinkedIn.
6. Add New Members to Your Network
All of your network members won’t be people from your past (you had to meet those people at some point too). So, set out to meet new people
- Job search support groups. These meet in local places of worship, public libraries, coffee shops and restaurants. Track them down through local bulletin boards and community calendars. They are excellent for networking and job search. Don’t job hunt without one!
- Online news. Find local industry or professional association meetings and other local events. Reconnect with people you know and meet new people as well.
- MeetUp.com. More local meetings can be found here, or start up your own group.
7. Be Patiently Persistent
Don’t expect immediate results, and don’t give up. It usually takes a while for your network to come through for you. Don’t expect complete strangers to refer you for jobs with their employers, unless they don’t care about their own reputations at work (some don’t).
I have spoken with so many people in new jobs who were contacted by a former boss or former co-worker when an opportunity became available, and had an inside track to a new job. I also have witnessed former colleagues connect with new jobs at the funeral of a former co-worker. We were all talking in line outside of the funeral home and one mentioned that he had several jobs open and needed good people like us. Bingo! Jobs filled; jobs landed; problems solved.
More About Employee Referrals
About the author…
Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 1998, her company, NETability, Inc. purchased Job-Hunt.org, and Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt since then. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.