The Preferred Way to Get an Internship: Get Referred

Get ReferredAccording to a survey by Jobvite, just 1 in 100 “cold call” applications lead to a job offer. However, that same survey showed that 1 in 7 who are referred get hired.

Obviously, applying “cold” to an internship or first job can be a risky job search strategy!

Your best bet as a would-be intern or young professional: identify people who might refer or recommend you to an employer.

A great referral is likely to cause a hiring manager or recruiter to pull your application out of a stack or from an online queue. “Recommendations are priceless. They mitigate the risk for the hiring manager.” Says Joyce Burch, Greater Oklahoma City Chamber.

Employers are putting an increased emphasis on referrals and recommendations. Jeff Fernandez, CEO of Grovo, believes in the power of a personal referrals. Says Jeff: “I will give the most credence to a high level referral from a trusted person. This may override a less than stellar resume.” Tony Denhart, Region Manager of University Relations at GE, adds: “I always call the referral and ask if they would hire the candidate themselves. Referrals and references are extremely important in the hiring process.”

What are the steps to being referred? It doesn’t just happen! Start with building relationships and then use proper etiquette and follow through:

1. Nurture Your Current Professional Relationships

Strive for excellence in all that you do – contract work, temp jobs, volunteering, clubs, etc. – and then keep in touch. To be recommended or referred, you must maintain relationships and follow up with all of your key career contacts including past employers, professors, industry contacts, and recruiters.

Kellen Brink graduated from Boston University’s School of Management in the spring of 2011. Kellen maintained valuable connections with the senior executive from one of her internships. They met occasionally and she kept in touch every few months. By the time Kellen graduated, she was referred into several companies for her first job out of college.

2. Create New Professional Relationships

Meeting new people is just the starting point for effective networking and gaining a referral. See how you can be helpful to your new contacts and be sure to follow up. Otherwise, your new connections will rapidly turn cold.

Your job is to find new contacts and then connect and in order to start building a solid relationship. Start by finding good contacts that are connected to your college or university. Get to know your academic department professors and alumni. Connect with the Career Services team. Next consider how to meet executives from professional associations or local business and civic organizations. Ask your relatives and neighbors for ideas of professional connections to make.

Consider using online resources to assist you with your mission to meet new people or to stay in touch in your industry. Use LinkedIn’s search capabilities and groups to help you identify the people that will be great contacts. Use LinkedIn endorsements, InMail and Mentions or Twitter follows, retweets and replies to stay engaged with the people you are meeting.

3. Ask to Be Referred and Always Follow Up

As long as you’ve kept up communications, you should be able to comfortably ask for help and advice as long as you’ve kept up communications. If you haven’t maintained contact, it’s very difficult to go back after 6 months or a year and ask for any favor like a referral.

Follow up is key to any networking or relationship building.

Andrew Porter, Penn State class of 2012, landed his first job at SportsRadio 94WIP in Philadelphia as a result of two things:

  1. He created a popular sports and school related blog called and;
  2. He networked and followed up well.

Andrew had his sights on the radio station and connected in through a “friend of a friend of a friend”. He originally interviewed for a sales position, although he wanted to be involved in production and social media.

The sales position didn’t work out, but he knew the importance of creating and maintaining a good relationship with the General Sales Manager. Weeks later, Andrew spotted the production job he was really interested in. He called the General Sales Manager and was then referred for the production job!

The likelihood of finding a great internship or first job is greatly increased if someone has referred you directly to the hiring manager or recruiter. Dia Harris, Senior University Relations Specialist at Johnson & Johnson says: “Referrals and references will help you stand out and can tip the scale in your favor.”

Andrew and Kellen both stood out by their ability to create and maintain relationships; and then they demonstrated excellent follow up. What is your strategy to stay in touch… and earn an enthusiastic referral?


sandra longAbout the Author: Sandra Long is an independent LinkedIn, networking, and social media enthusiast. She is president and chief consultant for Post Road Consulting LLC and My Intern Coach. In addition to working with businesses, Sandra has a passion for helping college students and young career professionals navigate early career challenges and internships. Connect with Sandra on Twitter.


© Copyright 2014. Sandra Long. All rights reserved.



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