How to get the magical referral to a role you applied to

How to get the magical referral to a role you applied to was originally published on Intern From Home.

Welcome back! Our last post went into details of what happens behind the scenes with your internship/job application at a company. Specifically, we talked about the fact that most companies start by looking at applications that have been referred by employees. You want your application to have that referral “checkbox” checked off. In this post, we’re going to talk about how exactly you can make this happen!

So, what can you do to get that referral checkbox checked off?

Now that you know what’s often happening behind the scenes with your application, you can use this knowledge to ensure that you don’t get overlooked by companies. The simple way to overcome this situation is that you should be trying to set up a networking call/informational interview right after you apply to the role, especially for the roles you really want.

For your convenience, we’re going to re-share a LinkedIn message you can consider sending to an employee at the company of interest. As usual, make sure to customize the text in the [BRACKETS]:

“Hi [NAME],

My name is [YOUR NAME] and I’m a student at [YOUR SCHOOL NAME] and very interested in [COMPANY NAME] because [IN A FEW WORDS, PROVIDE REASON THAT SHOWS YOU’VE DONE YOUR RESEARCH ON THE COMPANY]. I’ve recently applied to the [INTERNSHIP ROLE TITLE] at your company and would love to learn more about your experiences at the company. Would you be willing to jump on a quick call?”

Thank you,

Note: if you cannot find the name of the person who posted the role, then you can research the company on LinkedIn and reach out to any employee who works there and seems most relevant to the role you applied to.

And then what can I do next to work towards getting that referral checkbox checked off?

Once you get the networking call/informational interview arranged, we want you to make the most of it. To this end, we encourage you to take a look at our prior posts which focus on how to best prepare for the call and how to make the most of the actual call once you’re in it.

How can I be sure that the referral checkbox is actually getting checked off?

  • It is common that if you make a strong impression on the networking call (which you can best achieve by doing your research before the call and being present on the call), the person with whom you’re speaking will offer to refer you (before you can even ask!)
    • It might be as simple as them saying “I’m happy to refer you for the role.” or something such as “I’ll let HR know about your interest in the role”
    • These statements are the equivalent of a referral, and if they say something along these lines, you should say thank you and that you really appreciate their support. There is no need to ask for anything more, and in fact, you do not want to ask for more since it can come across as being overly aggressive.
  • If the other person doesn’t explicitly offer to refer you, but it seems like the call has gone well, you can subtly seek a referral. We do not recommend explicitly asking “can you refer me?” Rather, we suggest asking something along the lines of “I’ve really enjoyed our conversation today and my interest in [COMPANY NAME] has only grown. Is there anything you suggest I do so that I can further demonstrate my interest in the role?”
    • While you didn’t say the word “referral” in this statement, it very strongly signals that you want to go through the interview process with the company. It is likely that the person with whom you’re speaking will “get your hint” and they’ll (hopefully) offer to refer you.
  • There is also the chance that they didn’t enjoy the call with you and they don’t want to refer you. That’s ok and it happens to everyone! You might already be getting the sense that things aren’t going particularly well throughout the call.
  • If after asking the “I’ve really enjoyed our conversation today and my interest in [COMPANY NAME] has only grown. Is there anything you suggest I do so that I can further demonstrate my interest in the role?”question and they say no or something that seems like they don’t want to help, that should be your sign to gracefully thank them for their time and to not push any more for a referral.
    • Remember that even if this happens, you are still eligible for the role at the company. Just because one person didn’t love you doesn’t mean others won’t see the best in you!

Even if the person says they’re referring you, you should still be following up over email to ensure that magical checkbox gets checked off

  • If the other person offers to refer you (which they may informally refer to as “telling HR about you”), they might do it right away which is great. But, people also get busy and they might run to a different meeting straight from their meeting with you… which means they may forget to refer you. You can help with this potential challenge by following up with an email.
    • The email does not have to all be about the referral. In fact, the email should be thanking the other person for taking the time to speak with you and also sharing your takeaways from the call. We recommend referencing our prior post on how to write a strong follow-up thank you email. In that post, we provided two different options of how to end the email. We want to add a third option which you should use (instead of the other two) to gently remind the person to refer you. You can add two (or so) sentences that say:
      “I appreciate your willingness to tell the appropriate people at [COMPANY NAME] about my interest in interning this [ADD TIME PERIOD WHEN YOU WANT TO INTERN; example: “this summer”]. Thank you very much, and please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help on this front.”
  • After sending this email, it is likely the other person will respond with a quick response that says something along the lines of “my pleasure” or “nice talking with you” and perhaps they will add a part about the fact that they’ve “told HR about you” or flagged your application in their system. If you receive one of those responses, you should feel confident that your application has been appropriately flagged in the system which is a great first step towards beginning the interview process for the job.
  • Even if you don’t hear back from that follow-up email (or the person doesn’t explicitly say they’ve referred you), you should not assume that they didn’t flag your application. They very well might have and just didn’t explicitly tell you they did.

Thanks for reading this post. We hope you’re feeling inspired to make sure that your application gets seen… because it deserves to!

Did you enjoy this guide? You’re in for a treat: this is just one of dozens of guides created for students about how to handle the recruiting (aka: getting an internship/job) process. To see all of the other guides, subscribe to Intern From Home’s newsletter (it’s completely free!) where we talk about all things from using LinkedIn to preparing for an interview to making the most of your role.

By Intern From Home
Helping students from 600+ colleges learn about how to find and get an internship/job, use LinkedIn, prepare for interviews, write a cover letter/resume, make the most of their role, and more.