Your resume is no longer just a sheet of paper or .pdf attachment. It is your background, your story, your presence, efforts, and chosen peers. In today’s working climate your reputation is your resume, skills and social media included. Don’t believe me? Consider why companies ask for and call on references during the hiring process.
It makes sense then to ensure your personal brand is inline with the career objectives you have for yourself. This is your opportunity to infuse your own individuality with the professional value you provide. Represent yourself as the unique employee you are (and/or could be) instead of one of the worker bee drones that brick the bottoms of every resume pile. What is the best way to herald your profound badass professionalism, you ask? By letting others do it for you, of course.
Think of it this way: Have you ever read the reviews on Amazon before deciding to make a purchase? Have you ever looked at the Google or Yelp rating of a restaurant / business prior to visiting? What about when you keep asking your friend from Pennsylvania if the cheesesteak joint down the street is as good as it is in Philly? (It never is by the way.)
The point is, it’s human nature to want a second opinion, to get validation of our own preferences OR steer clear of potential bad experiences. Hiring is the same way. In a world inundated with wannabe employees, a second opinion, specifically an endorsement, cuts through the noise of the many boisterous and oft over-zealous candidates that flood the inboxes of hiring managers everyday. What I’m alluding to, my friend, is the ‘referral.’
A recent survey found that referrals are the number one source for external hires. Almost 65% of all openings are filled through internal movement and referrals, according to the CareerXroads Source of Hire Report. If you’re hunting for a job, it pays to put your time and effort into cultivating your contacts.
Sure, maybe the internet has made it a little too easy to apply for jobs. Remember movies where down-trodden job seekers were forced to physically circle newspaper postings! (And why always in red pen?) In order to achieve differentiation you need to bolster your personal brand. Today, companies typically receive hundreds or even thousands of responses to any posted vacancy. To find qualified candidates more efficiently, organizations are turning to their own employees for leads, crowdsourced recruitment for the cost of well, nothing extra.
Grow your network and uncover connections to key contacts at the companies where you want to work. Use these tips to guide you through seeking personal referrals.
How to Collect Personal Referrals
- Give generously. Offer something of value before you ask anyone for a favor. You’ll feel happier with yourself and your kindness will often be returned.
- Participate on Linked In. The premier professional network makes it easy to find key leaders in any industry. Polish up your Linked In profile, share articles, request introductions, and contribute to group discussions.
- Volunteer your services. Meet other professionals by organizing a fundraiser for an animal shelter or pulling weeds at your local park. Board members and other volunteers may be able to open doors for you.
- Join your professional association. Professional associations make it easy to zero in on other players in your field. Sign up for the welcoming committee or speakers’ bureau.
- Contact your alumni association. Your alma mater is another valuable resource. School spirit creates a powerful motivation to help each other out.
- Talk with your employer. Do your part to encourage more referral making. Ask your employer about starting or expanding such a program. Propose incentives and techniques like bonuses and mobile apps.
- Ask directly. Ensure others know that you want referrals. Tactfully mention what kind of opportunities you’re looking for and the services you can offer.
- Look around. Your personal brand is self-evidently more than just who you are at work. You may discover promising leads in unlikely places. Tell your hairdresser what you do for a living. Her next client may be someone you can add to your network. Boom!
Using Personal Referrals
- Act promptly. Take advantage of the opportunity to make yourself known before vacancies occur. That way you’ll face less competition and employees may be able to share more information if no formal hiring process is underway.
- Drop names (when appropriate, not when obnoxious). There’s no need to feel awkward about relying on a referral. Mention the name of the colleague who referred you if you’re leaving a voice mail, and briefly explain your relationship if you’re sending an email.
- Back it up. Of course, you also need to sell yourself. Research the company and rehearse your pitch. Once you’re hired, becoming a top performer will reflect well on your contact too (read – enhance their personal brand).
- Spread out your efforts. Broaden your network instead of relying on the same colleagues for one referral after another. They’re likely to be more responsive to occasional requests.
- Think long term. While your friends and family may be full of valuable leads, they may not pan out overnight. Networking is an ongoing process, so stay in touch and keep each other updated.
- Express thanks. Make others feel good about giving you referrals by letting them know how much you appreciate their assistance. Write handwritten thank you letters or invite them out to lunch.
Racking up referrals will enhance your personal brand and make it easier to land a great job. Tap into your network so you can position yourself as one of the recommended candidates that employers are looking for. And of course, return the favor. Who can you provide references for today? That’s the perfect place to begin.