WASHINGTON Attention job seekers! One of the best ways to get your foot in the door for a job interview is to get a job referral, or two.
And it doesn't stop there: according to StartWire.com, one of the web's top sites for job searching, "Referrals are the #1 source of hires in corporate America today. And, recent research shows that 'referral' hires not only stay in their jobs longer but that they perform better over the long term."
If you're new at asking for a referral, or if you're unsure if you're using the correct approach, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Use your mouse.
A good place to start looking is by going online and using LinkedIn.
Search by company name, then click on the company you're interested in. You'll see a list of contacts in your network who may be able to help.
Try a soft touch.
If your current employer knows you're job hunting, ask and ask early but don't come on like gangbusters. A gentle approach is often best and you don't have to wait for your next in-person meeting. The important thing is to ask, so feel free to get started by sending an email or bringing it up during a phone call.
Think outside the box.
The best type of referral is an employee referral. However, clients, vendors, and other people connected with the company may be able to assist, as well. And don't laugh, but it's OK to ask friends and family to vouch for your integrity and work ethic, especially if they are well-known or work in your industry.
Ask in writing, or not.
it's better to ask in writing because it gives the potential referrer time to think over if and how they can refer you for a job. That said, it's perfectly acceptable to call, send an email or use a social networking site like LinkedIn or Facebook to make the request.
Never ask someone, "can you refer me?" Instead, ask "do you feel you know my work well enough to refer me for a job at your company?" or "do you feel you could give me a referral?" That way the person has an "out" if they're uncomfortable giving you a referral and you can feel assured those who say "yes" will write a positive letter and give you a strong endorsement.
Don't be afraid to ask people to highlight specific skills. People are often unsure how much or how little information to include and are happy to emphasize the skills and experience most relevant to the position you're pursuing.
If you don't know the person you're asking very well or if they're unfamiliar with your current work history, provide an updated copy of your resume and any pertinent information about your skills and experiences (including volunteer and community work) so they have the most current information with which to work.
Acknowledge the effort.
Be sure to thank everyone who has helped you and taken the time to write a referral.
A hand-written note is always the best. This simple effort speaks volumes about how appreciative you are and will stand out in a sea of e-mails.
Remember, the person providing your referral isn't just doing you a favor, they're putting their reputation on the line. Before you ask for a referral, make sure you're qualified for the job.
(Editing by Paul Casciato)
(Pamela Eyring is the president of The Protocol School of Washington (PSOW), which provides professional business etiquette and international protocol training. Founded in 1988, PSOW is the only school of its kind in the U.S. to become accredited. Any opinions expressed are her own. PSOW’s website is: www.psow.edu.)