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5 Steps To Earning A Job Referral When Searching For An Industry Position

Written By: Gemma Paech, PhD

I knew that I needed to leave academia.

The longer I stayed in academia, the more depressed and stressed I became.

I hated what I was doing.

When I spoke to other PhDs who had transitioned into industry, they all said the same thing…

“I love my job.”

“I wish I had left academia sooner.”

I knew that if I wanted to transition into industry, I would need to network.

I needed to find someone in a company who could refer me to the hiring manager for a position.

After several months of networking, a friend from a company in my field contacted me.

The company was expanding, and they were looking for people to fill multiple positions.

The hiring manager had asked current staff if they knew of anyone who would be interested in applying for these positions.

She contacted me, told me there were opportunities opening, and asked if I was interested.

After talking to her, she offered to pass on my resume to the hiring manager.

Within the week, I was contacted by the hiring manager to do a phone interview.

I had managed to bypass the dreaded online application process.

I witnessed first-hand how an in-house referral could get you quickly noticed.

Without this referral, I probably would never have even had a phone interview.

I was grateful to my friend for referring me, and knew that getting a referral would be a key part of my successful transition into industry.

Why Job Referrals Are The Best Way To Get An Industry Position

The best way to get a job is through referrals.

A study conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and MIT investigated applicants and new hires for a mid-sized USA company over several years.

Researchers in this study looked at how applicants applied for the job, and whether they were successful in getting an interview, an offer, and eventually getting hired.

While 60% of candidates applied via online job boards, this only accounted for 23% of new hires.

On the other hand, referrals made up one of the smaller applicant pools, yet they also made up the highest proportion of new hires.

Those who had been referred to by a current employee accounted for 29% of hires.

Not only this, but according to a report described in Business Insider, employees who have been referred have a higher retention rate.

Referred employees were also more productive, compared to other new employees.

With these positives, it’s no wonder that many companies aim to have a high percentage of internal referrals.

According to a report in the New York Times, some companies aim to have as many as 50% of new hires come from internal referrals.

To encourage referrals, these companies offer prizes or cash incentives to employees who refer a new hire.

With these incentives and the growing popularity of referrals, you are much more likely to get a job if you are referred.

Getting a referral is a win-win situation for you and the person who referred you.

However, when asking for a referral, it’s important that you have considered your specific situation and are certain that asking for a referral is appropriate.

5 Things To Do Before You Ask For A Job Referral

Getting a referral is the best way to get an industry position.

But, it is inappropriate to ask a complete stranger for a referral or to ask for a referral for a position that is not suited to you.

Before you ask someone for a referral, you must make sure that it is appropriate to do so.

Here are 5 steps you should take before it is appropriate for you to ask someone for a referral…

1. Build a professional relationship with your contact.

Before you ask someone to refer you, you need to consider the relationship that you have with them.

Is the person a family member, a friend, or an acquaintance?

How long have you known this person?

Several years, or just a few weeks?

Generally, the longer you’ve known someone, the more comfortable they will be referring you for a position.

If you have just met someone, this is not the right time to ask for a referral.

Asking for a job referral before building a professional relationship will make your contact uncomfortable.

The person will likely refuse to refer you for a position if you do not already have a relationship with them.

If they are a family member, you may want to reconsider asking for a referral.

Instead, ask your family member to introduce you to their colleagues, then work to build a relationship with them.

It is essential that you have a professional relationship with someone before you ask them to refer you for a position.

Networking is key to building up your professional relationships.

You can network online, or in person at conferences and other events.

When networking, always follow the cardinal rule and add value first before you ask for any favors, such as a job referral.

2. Demonstrate that you have good work habits.

You need to prove to the person referring you that you have good work habits and will make a positive addition to the work environment.

Your work habits include your reliability, organization, and initiative.

Are you a person who needs to be supervised constantly, or can you work independently?

Are you reliable and well-organized?

As you build your professional relationship with your contact, pay close attention to the work habits that you portray.

You don’t need to have worked with someone for them to know your work habits.

How you conduct yourself in networking situations will demonstrate your work habits, and give someone an impression of the type of employee you will be.

Unless your contact is confident that you have good work habits, they may not feel comfortable referring you.

3. Show your passion for the position.

You must demonstrate that you are serious and passionate about the position.

Sometimes, the stress of academia can make PhDs desperate to leave, and you might be tempted to apply for any industry job that is available.

This may be tempting, but it is not a viable job search strategy.

You should identify the professional lifestyle you want, and then target jobs that fit within your goals.

Show your contact that you are passionate about the position by displaying interest in their company and in the job application process.

If someone refers you for a position that you are not serious about, you risk damaging the relationship you have built with them.

Instead of asking for, or accepting, a referral for a position that you are not interested in, you could pass along the referral to someone else in your network.

If you know someone who the job might be a great fit for, you can bridge the connection.

This is a great way to add value to both parties and build up your network.

4. Determine if you are a good fit for the company culture.

Do your research and learn what the company culture and dynamic is like.

Look at Glassdoor for company reviews, conduct informational interviews, and read the company’s mission statement.

Think about the characteristics of the company that you learned about while researching the culture and speaking with current employees.

Do these characteristics match your personality and beliefs?

Many companies have certain strategies or goals, and employees should align with these goals.

If you are still unsure of your fit with the company, ask the connection you are considering asking for a referral from what it is like to work for the company.

You could even ask your connection if they think you will be a good fit for the company.

They have direct experience with the company and also know you, so they may have a good idea if the company is right for you.

Do what it takes to understand the company culture and make sure you are a good fit before you ask for a referral.

5. Demonstrate the value you would bring to the company.

It’s obvious that during an interview, you need to show your potential employer the value you will bring to the company.

But, you need to do this when trying to earn a referral as well.

You may be working directly or indirectly with the person who refers you, and you want them to know that you would be a valuable addition to their team.

Show your value though the genuine interactions you have with your connections.

This will build up your rapport with them and show them that you are someone who would be good to work with.

Make sure your LinkedIn profile is professional and displays your positive work history.

If at any time you appear unprofessional or inappropriate, your connection will probably not want to refer you.

It is very important to remember that when someone refers you, they become somewhat liable for your behavior and performance.

By demonstrating your value, you leave no doubt in your connection’s mind that by referring you, their reputation with the company will only be impacted in a positive way.

Getting a job referral is by far the best way to get an industry position, but you have to earn a job referral. The best way to accomplish this is through quality networking, both online and in person. Once you reach the place where you want to ask for a job referral, there are a few things that you need to make sure you do before you make the ask. You need to build a professional relationship with your connection, demonstrate that you have good work habits, show your passion for the position, determine if you are a good fit for the company culture, and demonstrate the overall value that you will bring to the company. A job referral is very powerful and often the key to getting an interview or getting hired. Do not take asking for a referral lightly, and only do so after you have earned the trust and respect of your connection.

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Gemma Paech, Ph.D.

Gemma Paech, Ph.D.

Gemma has a PhD in Social Sciences specializing in sleep and circadian rhythms with a background in genetics and immunology. She is currently transitioning from academia into industry. She has experience in communicating science to lay audiences and believes in sharing scientific knowledge with the public. She is passionate about educating the public about the importance of sleep and the effects of sleep loss and disruption on general health and wellbeing to increase quality of life and work productivity. She is also committed to mentoring students across all demographics, helping them reach their full potential.
Gemma Paech, Ph.D.