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9 Things to Consider Before Making an Employee Referral


If you work for a well-known company or in a coveted field, you may have already received requests from friends, relatives, acquaintances, and LinkedIn contacts to forward their resumes for a suitable role in your organization. This could put you in a bind if you’re dealing with a good friend who would be a bad fit for the culture or an acquaintance you know nothing about — and let’s not even talk about the random LinkedIn request. So what should you do without damaging your relationship or reputation at work?

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Here are a few things to consider before making a referral.

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1. Check out the organization’s policy on referrals. Often, the HR person can explain what she looks for in a candidate, and can advise you on profiles to forward. Some roles are specifically shared with employees to refer candidates.

2. If you get a request for a referral, ask the requester to browse for open roles in your company. In most cases, all the roles that are to be filled externally are published on job sites, company website, LinkedIn, etc. If you know how the person works and are comfortable sharing the resume, go ahead. But you should not be responsible to search for roles for the person — it’s their homework.

3. Ask yourself if you’d like to be associated with your referral. Be sure that you’ll be comfortable with your co-workers knowing that you’re the reason this person got the job, because he surely will thank you on all forums once inside. Would you like to be your referral’s colleague?

4. Know that the kind of resumes you forward and the kind of candidates you recommend reflect directly on you and your personal brand. If you randomly share irrelevant or weak profiles, it shows the recruiter and the hiring manager that you have poor judgment. The next time there’s a competent candidate from you, the recruiter may just ignore the resume, because, well, it’s from you.

5. Sometimes, not referring can cause more awkwardness than actually referring and getting the resume rejected. This is particularly true of close friends and family members you know are not good fits, but have to refer, because well, that’s what you do for friends and family. But let them know what you think, e.g.: “I don’t think it’s going to be a profile match. I am not sure if the organization’s values and your personal beliefs will gel well, and your credentials are not exactly in line with what the company looks for, because of XYZ reasons. It is very likely that you will not hear back. If you’d still like for me to refer, I will, but I would suggest you apply elsewhere simultaneously and keep your options open. I will gladly help you with your job search, resume, cover letters, etc.” That way, you don’t come across as a barrier, but as a sound adviser. Alternately, you could also ask them to apply directly on the company’s career site.

6. If you are unsure, but feel compelled to make a reference (spouse’s sibling, mother-in-law’s friend’s son?), make sure you let the recruiter know that you are not aware of their work and are not comfortable commenting on it. You should also let her know that you would be comfortable with her judgment. She will understand why you’ve referred (she may also have her mother-in-law’s friend’s son’s resume to refer!)

7. Unless and until you genuinely find a LinkedIn referral request to be worth your time and your company’s, you don’t have to refer. You can share the same explanation with them as well. If they request a meeting with you, consider it. It’s nice to help competent people looking for a job; the corporate world is a very small place, you never know when you’ll bump into them, especially if they come across as smart and talented. So take your time and priorities into account before you make the effort to meet the person.

8. Don’t get into situations where your friend will work for you, or you’ll work for your friend. Think about how the hiring decision would be perceived by the team. Will it be considered favoritism or nepotism? Is it worth the effort? How would the team dynamics change, and would your working relationship with your friend change your personal relationship?

9. If you know your friend will be a high performer, an exceptional candidate for the role, go ahead and make a glorious recommendation. Do not let competition and jealousy come between helping someone find a job.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you ever referred a friend for a job, and if so, how did it go? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Padmaja Ganeshan Singh
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Excellent post, though you are under the assumption that there is only one reputation being challenged, your reputation inside the company, but what about the reputation you have with your friend if it’s your company the one not behaving accordingly to the referral you’ve made. I’ve been in several situations like this before, where your company don’t even call the person nor even reply to you about the CV.

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