How to Mention a Referral in Your Cover Letter
A referral can help you stand out from the crowd when you are applying for a job. Hiring managers and recruiters are more likely to take a closer look at candidates with whom they share a mutual contact, and for good reason: studies have shown that hiring through employee referral is faster, cheaper, and more effective than relying on job sites. Referral hires also tend to get up to speed more quickly, fit in better, and stay at the company longer.
A referral cover letter can make the difference in helping your application get noticed by prospective employers. It also gives the hiring manager some context for your work and provides additional information about you.
What Is a Referral Cover Letter?
A referral cover letter is used to mention a mutual connection when applying for a job. You might be referred by a colleague, a friend, an employee at the company you’re interested in, or even your college career office. Having a referral to mention in your cover letter helps the hiring manager relate your experience to the open position, and can provide some insight into how well you might fit in at the company.
Your cover letter is your opportunity to highlight your education, skills, and qualifications for the job. In addition to your referral, you will have the chance to mention a few specific examples of why you are the best candidate for the position, and give more detail than you can on your resume.
How to Get a Referral
The referral doesn't have to be a business connection. You can ask anyone you know at the company or who has a contact at the company if they would recommend you for a job.
Just be sure to check with the individual in advance and ask if they are willing to give you a referral. Even if you’re certain they’d vouch for you, giving a potential referral a heads-up ensures that they’ll be able to offer the best possible recommendation, given the job requirements.
You can send a letter or email asking for a referral, which will give the person the time and opportunity to think through what they can do for you, and how to proceed.
How to Mention a Referral in a Cover Letter
When you use a referral in your cover letter, you should mention it in the first paragraph. Include the individual by name and describe your connection with them as well. Give a brief account of how you know the person, in what context, and for how long you have been acquainted.
In addition, if the person recommended that you apply for this particular position, take the opportunity to mention why they are endorsing you. What qualities of yours made them think that you would be a good fit for the company?
My colleague Amy Smith recommended that I contact you directly about this position. Amy and I have worked closely in the industry for many years, and she thought that ABC Inc. would be a good fit for my style and experience in sales. She pointed out that as a successful, award-winning salesperson I would be an excellent addition to the sales team at ABC Inc.
Referral Cover Letter Tips
Name-dropping does not come easily to some people, especially if you're already struggling with how to write about your accomplishments and sell yourself to a hiring manager.
For this reason, it is often helpful to look at examples of cover letters. Be sure to tailor your letter to fit your personal and professional circumstances.
You should include a brief mention of the recommendation right away in the letter. This strategy puts the referral in the front of the reader's mind, giving them context for what follows.
This leaves you plenty of space to expand on your strengths and why you're the best candidate for the job. Your cover letter is your chance to make a strong first impression, since it is likely the first thing a hiring manager will see, possibly even before your resume. Take the opportunity to impress them with your contact and their recommendation, and then go on to show examples of your successes in the workplace to prove that you are the most qualified person for the job.
As with all your business correspondence, make sure that you proofread your cover letter for correct spelling and grammar, and check that the information matches on all the documents you submit.
Read More: How to Ask for a Referral for a Job
Asking for a referral is important. How you handle that referral is even more important. If you want to work at XYZ Company and you know someone that works there, you should ask them to refer you to a hiring manager. Ideally, your contact will make a personal introduction, or copy you on an e-mail introduction. Sometimes, you'll just get a phone number or e-mail address of the hiring manager.
Recently, someone e-mailed me their resume. There was no mention of how this person knew my e-mail address or even about what position they were inquiring. I didn't respond right away. I eventually did respond to the e-mail and politely asked if they were interested in a certain position. A few days later they replied with the name of the person that referred them to me - only the name, no other info.
Here are a few simple ways to be sure you handle the referral introduction well:
- If you're copied on a referral e-mail, reply back quickly thanking the referrer and including your resume and a brief cover letter or introduction.
- If you're just given the hiring manager's e-mail address, send an e-mail right away. Your subject should be something informative like, "Referral from Robert Smith - interested in Executive Assistant position". In the body of the e-mail, re-iterate who referred you and how you know them.
- If you're just given the hiring manager's phone number, ask your contact if there is a good time of day to call. Call as soon as you can, and when it's likely convenient for the hiring manager. Give a one-line introduction and ask for future time, "Hello Mrs. Lee. My name is Michelle Anderson. I was referred to you Robert Smith. I'm interested in your Executive Assistant position. Can I schedule a few minutes of your time sometime this week?".
Just like every other step in the job search process, be sure to graciously thank your contact for making the referral and keep them updated on your communication with the hiring manager.