Sunday, May 03, 2009

Helping People Find Jobs with "Soft Referrals"

15 months ago, I left a medium-sized company in the mortgage industry. It had been a great place to work, right up until it wasn't, and I really liked and admired many of the people I worked with.

I was one of the earlier people to jump--the writing on the wall seemed clear to me--but many others stayed, for various reasons. The company I moved to, in a very different industry, is a huge employer, and was doing a fair amount of hiring. But it was such a huge company, and I was so new, that there was almost zero chance that I would have any direct contact with the the area doing the hiring for any given posting.

So what I told my former colleagues (the 90% that I would put in the "good person to hire category") was "if you see a posting that you are interested in, send me the requisition number, and I will find out who the hiring manager is, and send them an unsolicited, but internal, reference. Also, while my primary motivation is not the referral bonus, all things being equal, I would like to be in a position to collect it, so give me 24 hours to submit you through the system, then go ahead and assume I have done that, and apply".

This has worked out pretty well for all concerned. This helped 3 job seekers find positions. It helped hiring managers hire good people. And as the referrer, in theory, I should be eligible for a referral bonus. (Well, I guess it only helped me in that it helped the other two ways--2 of the 3 positions were for contractors, so no referral bonus there, and the third was for someone who had already posted before contacting me, so no bonus there either.)

I think for some reason, people are hesitant to send this kind of unsolicited referral. I don't know why. Obviously, you only do it for good people. But even a "cold" internal referral, especially coming from someone obviously in a leadership position, is significant. If I were choosing between 2 hireable candidates that I had no prior knowledge of, and I estimated one was a "7", and the other an "8", and I got a solid internal referral on the 7, I would probably take that "7 in the hand", over an "8 in the bush". So, from the job-seeker's perspective, you may have to "lean on" your contacts to take this step. Feel free to link to this post to help make your case!

Acting as referrer has the added benefit of providing you, the referrer, with a chance to broaden your network within the company.


  1. Kathleen Bies16:18

    I like the premise here. I may be using you in this manner in the near future. Good write up!

  2. Good point - that's how I got on the radar of the recruiter for my position at AOL years ago - my friend who was there tracked down the internal recruiter and walked my resume over to him even though she didn't know him and worked in a different area of the company.

  3. Anonymous22:08

    And do you still hold to this position. You might find several resumes in your inbox as Park will be laying a large group of persons off in the next short period of time.

    Let me know, Al Downs