A Comprehensive Guide to Getting a Referral for Your Tech Job

40% of recent tech company hires came from a referral. Learn how to stand out in the hiring process with a great referral from someone in your network.

Getting interviews at top tech companies is hard. One of the best ways to get your foot in the door is to get a company referral.

A referral comes from someone who already works at the company you're applying.

Why Are Tech Company Referrals Important?

Referrals help you get your foot in the door at companies.

Applying with your resume through a job board is a totally valid strategy.

However, companies like Google go through hundreds of resumes every month. It can be overwhelming to find candidates who are right to advance and which ones to put aside.

This means it's hard to stand out when you just applying online.

What's important about referrals is making sure that someone at the company can vouch for you.

Ideally, this is someone who knows you or can speak to your skill set and experience.

It's helpful even to have someone in the company who can make sure a recruiter prioritizes your resume.

Almost 40% of new hires at top tech companies come from the recommendation of someone else.

Even if a job seeker does everything else right, a referral can tip the scales in your favor.

What Part of the Interview Process Needs a Referral?

You might think that employee referrals are only important for the initial interview stage.

A good referral is important throughout the entire hiring process.

Referrals are important both in getting invited to the start the interview process all the way through negotiating an offer.

In some cases, the hiring committee at big tech companies will review a candidate's entire packet before making a hiring decision. This includes looking over their resume again, checking for referrals, and even reviewing your LinkedIn profile.

It's here that a strong referral can make or break your candidacy if other qualified candidates are also lined up.

Conversely, a referral isn't a guaranteed interview! A hiring manager will still need to review your resume and compare it to those coming in from a career site.

Why Do Current Tech Employees Make Referrals?

At many big companies, employee referrals come with a cash referral bonus. Because tech talent is so hard to find, companies are willing to pay big bucks to get the inside scoop on potential candidates.

It's worth noting that not every company has a paid referral program in place. Some organizations only want to evaluate candidates on the merit of their work.

But as the tech hiring marketplace heats up and recruiters fight to attract quality employees, employee referrals are becoming even more valuable.

Additionally, employees want to work with people they've worked with before! It makes onboarding easier and can boost company culture all around to have familiar faces around the office.

How to Get a Referral at a Tech Company

Find Someone Who Works at the Company

The single best way to get a referral is to find someone who works at the company that you're applying for. A mutual connection is worth more than any other referral type you can get.

This may seem obvious, as personal connections were likely the first place you checked.

But while it may seem like you don't know someone at a particular company at first glance, your network might run deeper than you think!

Start with a LinkedIn search. Use the advanced search features to sort by connection type, company name, and much more. Try to find people you worked with at previous companies, had campus clubs with, or that you met through networking events.

Similarly, you can also look for people who may have previously worked at your desired company too. While they can't refer you directly, they may know someone who can!

Alumni Networks for Referrals

Your alma mater is a great place to continue your search for a referrer. Your university's database of former students and their current employers can help spark your search in new ways.

Reach out to your career counselor or anyone else you used to know at your university. They'll connect you with placement offices and alumni affairs to track down former students.

Universities want to help their students land jobs. It helps them boast about placement rates and successful candidates working at recognizable companies.

You can also extend your LinkedIn search to include alumni from your school. LinkedIn's advanced search features let you sort by school, city, or graduating class.

Share Your Story on LinkedIn

Post a big message on LinkedIn asking your network for help with a referral!

"I'm looking to work at Google as a product manager. Does anyone in my network know someone who could refer me to Google? I've spent the last 3 years as an APM at Dropbox and would love to transition to work at Google."

You'd be surprised at how willing people are to help connect you with someone who works at the company.

How to Ask for a Referral from Someone You Don't Know

If a first-person connection isn't an option, it's time to ask for referrals from people you don't know!

Exponent's tech job referral portal lets job seekers connect with Exponent alumni already working at the companies you're applying to.

If one of your friends or former colleagues knows someone who can refer you, try to make their job easier for them!

Write a message they can share stating what it is you want and more information about yourself.

It could look like:

Hi FRIEND NAME. My friend, YOUR NAME, is applying to a job at COMPANY and is trying to get a referral. If they're a good fit, do you think you could mention it to the hiring team? I attached their resume and a link to their LinkedIn profile for you to check out. Their phone number is 123-456-7890.

Make it as easy as possible for your own friend or connection to pass your information to someone else. In this case, you've included your contact information, resume, and a brief description about your referral request.

Cold Email Job Referrals

The hardest way to get a referral for a new job is to send a cold email to someone you don't know.

This is often called "cold emailing." You're reaching out directly to someone and there's potentially a very high rejection rate.

Don't get discouraged though if you never hear back from the people you cold email!

Make sure that every message you send is personalized to the person that you're applying to.

If a cold email could be applicable to multiple recipients, it's time to rewrite it! A cold email for a tech company referral is most effective when it mentions specific details.

  • Did you go to the same school as the person you're emailing?
  • Did you work at the same company in the past?
  • Do you play in a Dungeons and Dragons league every Sunday just like the person you're reaching out to?
  • Find ways to make your email personal so that it doesn't sound like spam

Describe in detail how you have a similar background or shared connections. Tell them why you're applying to work at the same company as them and why you think you'd make an exceptional candidate.

You may also find yourself sending cold emails if you're trying to transition to PM from a role like business analyst or UX.

After you send that request, send 10 more. The response rate for cold email referral requests is staggeringly low. Even if a company has an employee referral program, there's no guarantee that the person you're emailing even knows about i!

However, if you're able to connect via cold email with a referrer, it'll make your interview process go much smoother.

Getting referrals can feel daunting. Even if you know you're a great fit for a company culture you've got your eye on, you may not have an easy way to get an interview.

Referrals help tech employees stand out from the crowd at most companies. Cold messaging current tech workers who can help you may push you outside of your comfort zone.

But the data continues to show that employees hired at big tech companies have an advantage if they already know someone who works there.

Employee referrals lead to a 55% faster hiring pipeline compared to applying online.

Take the time in your job searching journey to reach out to existing employees and your network for a great referral. It could lead to a stellar offer!

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