Eighty percent of job seekers say their network has helped them get a job. If you haven’t tapped into yours yet, you may be overlooking the key to landing the job of your dreams. But you’ll never know for sure unless you reach out and ask for a referral.
This often means going beyond your immediate network and contacting people who share a mutual acquaintance with someone you know. Referral letters are a perfect way to ask these more distant connections for job leads, advice and/or contacts at employers.
Even if your letter doesn’t immediately lead to a new job, it can expand your network, which increases your chances of hearing about the next opportunity that would be perfect for you.
A referral letter might also net you valuable career advice or a brand-new mentor who can guide you to new levels in your field.
Of course, if you’re not in the habit of hitting up relative strangers for help, this can feel a little uncomfortable at first. It’s useful to have a template in mind, to make things easier.
But first, a few tips on what your referral letter should contain – and what it shouldn’t.
Tips for Sending a Referral Letter That Gets Attention
- Emphasize the mutual acquaintance. Whether you’re hoping for a job lead or just some tips on moving to a new area or field, it’s a good idea to start by mentioning the connection you have in common. We’re all busy; letting the recipient know where you’re coming from will help them prioritize your letter. If you’re looking for a job, referring to a mutual acquaintance will give you an advantage over the other applicants. In the working world, often it’s the “who you know” that can make the difference between getting an interview and having your resume passed by.
- Use your subject line to your advantage. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to use “Referred by” with the name of your mutual acquaintance to identify your connection.
- Format it as a business letter. This is a professional communication, which means that a business letter format will make the best impression. Again, if you choose email, be sure to make your subject line clear, so your letter isn’t deleted as trash before it gets read.
- Get right to the point. When writing to someone to ask for job search help, it’s especially important to be professional, get right to the point of your letter and be appreciative of any time they are willing to give you.
- Proofread your work. Better yet, have a trusted friend proofread it for you. It’s hard to see your own mistakes, but the recipient will probably spot them right away. Fairly or not, it will affect their opinion of you. Now is not the time to make a silly mistake.
- Be sure to send a follow-up thank-you note. Reach out to the mutual contact who referred you, and send them a note to thank them for their time and effort.