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How to mention a referral in your cover letter

How to mention a referral in your cover letter

Artwork by: Veronika Kiriyenko

  • How a referral helps you land an interview
  • How to get a referral
  • How to mention a referral in a cover letter
  • 2 Examples of referral cover letters
  • Key takeaways

There’s an old saying: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Skills and experience count, but learning how to use a referral in your cover letter might just be the edge you need to get your foot in the door.

While it’s no career Golden Ticket, having a referral can help get your foot in the door and secure an interview. Why? Hiring managers like hiring someone who is already trusted, so someone at their company vouching for you will help you stand out in a sea of applicants. So if you’ve got a referral, a good way to use it is in your cover letter.

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • The benefits of being referred

  • How to secure a referral for a job

  • How to mention a referral in a cover letter

  • 2 templates of referral cover letters

How a referral helps you land an interview

Ideally, a referral in your cover letter can provide more information about you than what hiring managers read on your resume. If the referral is coming from someone who already works for the company, they have a good idea about the position’s requirements and can highlight your attributes. It might be enough for the recruiter to put your resume in the “yes” pile.

Statistical Insight

According to a recent survey, referrals make up to 45 percent of all internal hires, even though only seven percent of applicants have a referral. This is because candidates who are referred tend to be of “higher quality” which saves the company time, increases productivity, and reduces turnover.

How to get a referral

Obtaining a referral takes a bit of finesse, but It’s not impossible. Here are a four tips to get you started:

1. Decide who to ask

You have a lot of options when it comes to getting a referral. You can ask people you already know, have worked with, or someone in your extended network. Your best option is someone familiar with your work and can vouch for you. But you can still reach out to people you know less well. You’ll probably have to remind them of how you know each other and provide a little more context as to why you’re reaching out. 

2. Utilize your professional network

Look to your professional network first. Is there anyone you know who works at the company or in the industry you’re targeting? Whether it’s people you went to school with, former co-workers, or personal acquaintances, take the opportunity to say hello . Even if your network contact is in a different department than the one you're applying to, they most likely have a "feel" for the company. After you've established contact, ask if they’ll introduce you to someone in your desired department.

3. Allow them to decline

Even if you know the person you’re asking for a referral, don’t assume they’ll give it to you. Some people aren’t okay with going out on a limb for others, so you must understand that and move on. Always give the person you're asking the room to decline your request. State something like, "I understand if you're not comfortable giving a referral." This way, they can back out, and it won't damage your relationship.

4. Don’t use someone’s name without permission

If you’ve established a professional relationship with people in your network and you see that their company has a job opening, don’t use their name in your cover letter. Ask first before the hiring manager contacts them, throwing them off guard. 

How to mention a referral in a cover letter

If you’re using a referral in your cover letter, the format will be different than a regular cover letter. Mention the referral’s name in the first paragraph of the cover letter, as this lets the hiring manager know who’s referring you and it will likely motivate them to keep reading. Briefly describe how you know the person providing the referral. If you haven’t worked directly with the person, give context on why they’re willing to give you the referral.

If the person giving the referral suggested you apply for this job, explain to the hiring manager why they did so. What makes you particularly qualified for the position? What value do you bring? This would also be a good place to mention key accomplishments in your previous positions, ensuring that they’re tailored for the job you’re applying for. 

2 Examples of referral cover letters

Once you’ve obtained your reference, it’s time to craft a referral cover letter. How you format it will depend on your level of familiarity with the person giving the referral. And it goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: Don’t forget to proofread!

Here are two examples:

Example #1: When you have previously worked with the referral 

[Your name]  [Your address]  [Phone number] [Email address]

[Date]

[Hiring manager’s name]  [Company address]

Dear [hiring manager’s name],

I was very excited to learn about the new [job title] opening at [company name]. I recently had a conversation with [referral’s name], the [referral’s job title] at your company, and [he/she] highly encouraged me to apply for this job role. As [he/she] can attest, I can provide the right blend of specialist skills, a positive attitude, and a fresh perspective that are crucial for this job role.

With [referral’s name], I had the opportunity to work on some of the most challenging, yet rewarding projects such as [project details]. Each successful project allowed me to hone my skills, learn more about the [job role], and provide a seamless end-to-end experience to our internal and external stakeholders that aligned with our strategic corporate objectives.

Some of my key accomplishments include

  • [Insert one relevant accomplishment]

  • [Insert one relevant accomplishment]

  • [Insert one relevant accomplishment]

My experience and skills have prepared me to take on the challenges associated with the [job role] and deliver results that meet and exceed your expectations. I would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you and discuss how I can be of value to your organization.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely, [Your name]

Example #2: When you haven’t worked with the referral in the past

[Your name]  [Your address]  [Phone number] [Email address]

[Date]

Dear [hiring manager’s name],

I was very excited to learn about the new [job title] opening at [company name]. I recently had a conversation with [referral’s name], the [referral’s job title] at your company, and [he/she] highly encouraged me to apply for this job role.

During my discussion with [referral’s name], I had the opportunity to learn more about the job opening at your organization and how closely my previous experience aligns with the duties and responsibilities associated with the new job role.

Some of my key accomplishments include

  • [Insert one relevant accomplishment]

  • [Insert one relevant accomplishment]

  • [Insert one relevant accomplishment]

My expertise in [field name] has prepared me to take on the challenges associated with the [job role] and deliver results that meet and exceed your expectations. I would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you and discuss how I can be of value to your organization.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely, [Your name]

Once you’ve landed that new job, you’ll need a plan. With Career.io’s First 90-Day Plan, you’ll get the tools, professional guidance, and strategies to overcome challenges and set yourself up for success.

Key takeaways

  1. Having a referral to vouch for your skills will help you stand out from a sea of applicants.

  2. To obtain a referral for your cover letter, decide whom you’re going to ask, work your network, ask politely, and give them the option to decline.

  3. When using a referral in your cover letter, mention the name in the first paragraph along with how you know the person. This will pique the hiring manager’s interest, and they’re more likely to look at your resume.

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