How to Use a Referral to Apply for a Job

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You may have an impressive resume and an outstanding list of professional achievements. But if you also have a referral you may have a distinct advantage over other job applicants. Knowing someone who is held in high regard at a company can cast the “halo effect,” effectively serving as a reference and a warranty rolled into one. Burnish that halo both in your cover letter and during the job interview.

Clarify the role and status of your referral source -- an especially important task if you are merely an acquaintance of the referral. After all, a referral who is not held in high regard will be of minimal value to you. Learn what you can about the referral’s job functions so that you can comment intelligently on them during the interview.

Begin your cover letter by dropping the name of your referral. You might say, for example, “At the suggestion of Marketing Director Jennifer Smith, I am writing to apply for an account executive position at XYZ Company.”

Follow the other tenets of writing an effective cover letter: cite your professional achievements and underscore your winning personal qualities. Present your qualifications positively and in a way that shows how you would be an asset to the company.

Write a short and gripping paragraph that alludes to your referral: “I am confident that Jennifer Smith would be delighted to expound on the many ways in which I could contribute to the efforts of XYZ Company. Please feel free to speak with her about my professional and personal attributes.”

Mention your referral in a positive way during the interview, but demonstrate restraint and don’t overdo it. Think of your referral as an added advantage who has helped opened a door for you. You still must decide whether you should walk through it.


Provide your referral with a copy of your cover letter and keep her up-to-date on your status so that she can communicate most effectively on your behalf and become your best ambassador for the position.