To Be Hired Today: Earn an Employee Referral

employee referralBeing recommended to the employer by a current employee is usually the best and fastest way to a new job. Known as an employee referral, a referred candidate is five times more likely to be hired than a candidate who was not referred.

The best news is that everyone usually wins in the referral process! You get a new job. The employer gets an employee likely to succeed in their job. And the employee who does the referral often receives a financial reward from the employer.

VERY IMPORTANT: Do NOT apply for a job until you understand how the employer’s employee referral programs (also known as “ERP”) works! Applying too soon can make you ineligible for the program, reducing your chances of getting hired.

While it sounds simple, getting referred for a job is not necessarily uncomplicated or easy; especially if — when you start — you have no contacts to refer you to the employer. In five steps, here is how you earn an employee referral…

1. Target Your Best Employers

If you don’t have a target list of employers, develop it. Now. 

This list helps you focus your networking and usually makes you more successful. The list can be as large as 20 or 40 potential employers. It can also change over time as you learn more about them or find better employers.

Do any of those employers have people working there who do what you want to do? Perhaps you are in a new field that the employer may need someone to do. If the employer has jobs you might want — currently open or not — include them on your list. Then explore your connections to current employees.

If friends, neighbors, former colleagues or bosses, members of a school alumni network, or members of your LinkedIn network work for employers on your list, reach out to them. Learn all you can about the employer’s ERP and the possibility of referrals.

2. Research Your Target Employers’ Employee Referral Programs

Do any of those employers have people working there, doing what you want to do? If they have jobs you might want — currently open or not — look for information about possible employee referral programs.

You want to know the program’s rules (they can differ dramatically from employer to employer):

  • Does the job you want qualify for the ERP?
  • When does the referral happen — before or after you apply?
  • Who can and cannot refer a job candidate?
  • How big is the reward for the employee who does the referral?

Many employers make the information about their ERP visible to the public on their website. Others keep the information private.

For more details, read How to Make Employer Referral Programs Work.

Even if you can’t find out about the ERP on the employer’s website, move on to the next step.

3. Connect with People at Your Target Employers

Connect with employees at those target employers to see if they are interested in referring you.

Hopefully, friends and family members are happy to refer you. Often people you don’t know well (or at all) may happy to refer you, too. After they get to know you a bit, of course, because of the financial reward as well as the opportunity to help both you and their employer.

If information about the employer’s ERP is not public? Ask the employee to look for documentation about the process and the rules for that employer’s program.

Exchange the information needed for the program’s process (more below).

4. Monitor the Jobs at Your Target Employers

Hopefully, the jobs are posted on the employer’s website. You may be able to set up an “alert” to receive email when jobs are posted — either at the employer’s website, a site like, or a job board.

In some cases, the employee may have access to job postings before the opportunities are made public on the employer’s website, Indeed, or a job board.

5. When the Right Job is Available, Follow the ERP Process to Apply

This is where understanding and following the employer’s ERP program rules are very important! Don’t blow the opportunity to be referred by not following the process correctly.

Be sure to understand the rules each employer has for their ERP program so you can be that referred candidate.

Want to get hired today? Earn an employee referral. While not simple or easy… the work is well worth the effort!


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Work Coach Cafe!




Susan-P-Joyce-AuthorOnline job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 2011, Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoachCafe.  A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Susan also edits and publishes, is a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and a columnist on HuffingtonPostAOL Jobs, and LinkedIn. Follow Susan on Twitter.



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