Looking for a job? Here’s how to ask for a referral

Last updated: July 17, 2024
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Janice Reed
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Looking for a job? Here’s how to ask for a referral
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If you’re looking for a new job, the people closest to you can support your goals. When you know someone with a company contact, their referral could help you land the position.

Business owners understand the value of referrals. When they hire someone based on a recommendation, 45% of these recruits stay with the company for more than four years. Compare this to employees hired via job boards, and only 25% stay for more than two years.

When you have a strong professional network of friends, family, colleagues, mentors, and previous managers, you'll be able to open up new job opportunities.

Do you need to ask for a referral? In the following guide, we'll give you our top tips and tell you what to say (and what not to say) when you ask somebody for a referral.

What is a job referral?

When a person is connected to a company and recommends you for a position, this is called a job referral. They could be an employee or have a business relationship with a manager.

A positive recommendation from someone in your network could help you get on the top candidate list. Instead of relying on your resume, hiring managers can learn about you from someone they trust.

They want to know that you'd be a good fit for the company culture and have the skills they're looking for.

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Relevant skills may include customer service, excellent time management skills, and the ability to work in a team.

The most powerful referrals are from people who can genuinely recommend you.

Whether it's a mutual friend, a happy customer, or a person whom you've had a cooperative work relationship with, a referral can be the key to your success.

When do you need a job referral?

Some companies will hire without advertising the position. Without a referral, you could miss out on your dream job.

When it's time to look for work, you can check in with your network. Is there anyone that could give you a job referral?

If you have a contact who would like to help, ask them if they can mention you to the hiring manager. This is a good option for friends of the employer and those who hold senior positions. They can give you either a verbal referral or a written referral.

If they don't feel confident approaching their manager directly, ask if you can mention them in your application.

For those who network online, you can reach out to your connections to see if they know of any open positions.

What is a professional network?

Your professional network includes anyone who you speak to about your career. Your network can be made up of friends, family members, mentors, and those you've worked with in the past.

You can also use professional networking websites such as Jobcase.

It's about building connections with people and supporting each other to smash any career goals.

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Remember, your strongest relationships will be built over time. Keep in touch with those in your network and celebrate their successes.

Even if you don't need a referral right now, you may later on. By staying in touch with your network contacts, you could end up with a future referral.

How to ask for a referral

When it's time to ask for a referral, there are a few steps you should follow. Here are our top tips to help you through the referral process.

1. Decide who to ask

Before you ask for a referral, think about whether or not they're the right person. A powerful referral will be someone with a connection to the company that you're applying to.

For example, they could already work there or know someone on the leadership team. They should be someone who can genuinely recommend you for the position.

2. Be professional

When you ask for a referral, always be professional. And, don't assume they'll say yes.

If you don't have a personal relationship, ask in writing. This way, you can include a copy of your cover letter and follow-up if you need to.

3. Give them notice

If you're sending an out-of-the-blue request, don't leave it until the last minute. Give your contact time to think about your question and get back to you.

This means you shouldn't call someone asking for a referral on the morning of your job interview. Instead, you should send a professional email as soon as you know you’ll be applying.

4. Choose the right time

When making a job referral request, choose an appropriate time to chat. If you're asking someone over the phone, you may need to schedule an appointment.

And, if you're making a request over email, don't leave it until 4 pm on a Friday.

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5. Say thank you

If your contact gives you a referral, make sure you say thank you. Even if you don’t get the job, you should still thank them for their contribution.

We recommend sending a thank you in writing. You can send a handwritten note or an email.

How to ask for a job referral over email

Communicating over email can help you avoid awkward networking attempts. Let’s talk about how you can compose your email:

DO say this:

When writing your job referral email, make sure it’s personalized. Address the recipient by name, and explain why you’re asking them for the referral.

If there’s a specific job you’re applying for, be sure to mention it in your email. And, consider including a copy of your cover letter or resume.

Here’s an example:

Dear Lucy,

I hope you're well and that you enjoyed your recent holiday to Hawaii.

I’m writing because I’m looking for a career change, and I’ve found a job I’d love to apply for. It’s an assistant restaurant manager position at the Pacific Bar in Florida.

I have experience working in the food services industry and feel I'm ready for a leadership role.

I’ve attached my cover letter and resume to this email for your information. I understand you have a contact at The Pacific Bar and was wondering if you’d mind giving a referral?

If you have any advice about the hiring process, please let me know,

Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you,

Kind regards,

Jenny Owens


[email protected]

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Here’s a free email template you can use:

Dear (Name),

I hope you are well,

I’m writing because I’m looking for (career change/new job) and I’ve found a job I’d love to apply for. It’s a (job title) position at (company name).

I have experience working in the (industry type), and I feel I am ready for a (leadership role/career change/new challenge).

I’ve attached my (cover letter and) resume to this email for your information. I understand you have a contact at (company name) and was wondering if you’d mind giving a referral?

If you have any advice about the hiring process, please let me know,

Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you,

Kind regards,

(Your First Name/Last Name)

(Phone number)

(Social media profile)

DON’T say this

When writing your email, don’t be overly familiar. And make sure you’re clear about what you’re asking for. Never use an affectionate sign-off such as “Love”:

Here’s an example of what NOT to say:

Hi Lucy,

I need a job, can you give me a referral?

Love Jenny

Top tips for asking for a referral over email:

  • If you don't hear back within three days, send a follow-up email

  • Use a professional email address such as [email protected]

  • Include your contact details in your email signature

  • Use an informative email subject such as "Job referral request"

  • Check your email for spelling and grammar mistakes

  • Make sure you personalize the email

  • Attach your resume

  • Use a professional sign-off such as "Regards" or "Kind regards"

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How to ask for a job referral over the phone

If you know someone well, you can ask for a referral over the phone or in person. You should always be respectful when making the request and give them the opportunity to decline if they feel uncomfortable.

The way you approach a friend or family member will depend on how close you are.

Top tips for asking for a referral over the phone:

  • Be friendly and inquire about their family or career

  • Explain why you’re calling

  • Send an email first to schedule your phone call

  • Choose the right time of day

  • Offer to send them your resume and cover letter

  • Give them time to think about it

  • Be polite if they refuse

Asking for a referral

When someone recommends you for a position, it’s called a job referral. A strong referral could help you stand out and get an interview.

People in your professional network can give you a referral. It could be a friend, acquaintance, teacher, or mentor who has a contact at the company you’re applying to.

Before asking for a referral, decide who to ask and give them notice. Be professional, and choose the right time. If a contact does refer you for a position, make sure you say thank you.

One of the best ways to ask for a referral is via email. To help you get started, we gave you an example and shared an ‌email referral template.

If you’re ready to start your job search, you can visit our job board. Or we have an extensive library of articles like this one in our resource center.



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