When to refer someone for a job

May 6, 2010 at 11:13 am Leave a comment

Networking is a two-way street. If you are going to ask people to help open doors for you, you’ll need to do the same for others. You’ll know you’re on the way to building an effective network when others start asking you to provide them with referrals for jobs, internships or fellowships. Much of the time you should be flattered and happy to do so, but be careful out there — as your reputation and network is on the line with each referral you make.

Getting someone into an organization with a referral is not the same as providing a reference for them (see Nov. 20 post, “When to act as a reference”). The stakes are much higher with a reference as you are endorsing their skills for a particular job. With a referral, you’re telling someone within an organization that this person is worth considering for an opening or future opening. Still, it’s important to take care in referring someone to a company.

Here are some tips for making a referral:

*Be clear and honest with everyone involved. Let’s say a former colleague whose work you know well asks you to refer them for a job to someone you know less well in an organization where they’d like to work. As you’re pretty familiar with — and a fan of — the former colleague’s work, you can easily vouch for them in making the referral. But as you don’t know the person inside the company all that well, be sure to tell the former colleague this going in — as they may know someone else who has a better “in” within the organization. Make sure to give both sides the full picture of your connection so they can adjust their expectations accordingly. Don’t oversell your connection — though this is a time-honored Washington sport in some circles. If you don’t have a good contact in an organization, even if someone thinks you might, be honest about that so they can look elsewhere.

*No is sometimes the right answer. Though a referral is not a reference and building your network requires giving as well as getting, there are times when it’s entirely appropriate to beg off. Some instances where you shouldn’t be afraid to say no include: when you don’t feel like the person asking would be a good fit for the company or for the opening; where you have already referred several people and you know the competition is stiff; or when you feel the organization is going through a rough patch and you aren’t sure it’s a good place to work right now. Again, be honest with the person asking (though in a kind way) and tell them, if it’s truly the case, that you would be happy to refer them to other organizations at other times. Remember, your reputation is important and you don’t want to be making referrals willy-nilly — you want to do so when both sides are likely to benefit.

*Do so right away and effectively. If you have agreed to open a door for someone, don’t put it off. They obviously are interested in the position now and so agreeing to do so but then waiting will only seek to frustrate them. If someone is seeking an introduction, introduce the people online so they have each other’s email address. Then follow up on the phone — or if you happen to see them in person, say at an event — to underscore your desire to help this person. Let them know the skills and talents of the person you’re referring and why they would be a good fit for their organization. Be specific. And, without being obnoxious about it, follow up to see if the connection was made and whether their candidacy has proceeded within the organization.

*Get back to the person who asked for the referral. Once you have made the connection, be sure to let them know and to let them know what you said. It’s important for them in their search to know where things stand and how to proceed. By following through and following up with them, you not only will have helped them in their search but will have shown them that networking works — even if this contact doesn’t lead to a job it has broadened their network, perhaps in an important way. And you will have cemented a contact in your network; that person will be much more likely to help you or someone you want to help in the future.

*The Washington Monthly has some food for thought about the government’s role in employment and training in its latest issue. Here’s an intro and the link:

Everyone agrees that Washington should be focused on the unemployment problem. Giving the unemployed better options to upgrade their skills is something government can actually do, and quickly, without breaking the bank. Read “Degrees of Speed” by Jamie Merisotis and Stan Jones.

*And here’s a batch of good leads to check out or pass along today:

*The Hill in D.C. has several openings for reporters for its new On The Money blog:

The Hill is seeking reporters for its On The Money blog, which has rapidly gained a substantial following and is ready to take the next step. Successful applicants will have a proven record getting news scoops, and an easy familiarity with such subjects as taxes, corporate governance, appropriations, banking and the budget. They will also have developed a thorough understanding of congressional procedure and an array of strong contacts. These are not entry-level jobs and are likely to suit reporters with three years experience or or more, much of it on Capitol Hill. Resumes should be sent to Jay Heflin at jay.heflin@thehill.com. Help us out by putting “On The Money reporter application” in the subject line of your email.

*The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in the Treasury Department is seeking a writer-editor in D.C. — those with top-notch copyediting skills would be a good fit:

The OCC is looking to hire a great copyeditor/proofreader and is accepting applications through May 18.
It’s a fulltime gig with wonderful benefits. The pay range is: $72,772.00 to $135,487.00 a year
Please direct anyone with great copyediting and proofreading experience to apply online through USA JOBS:


*Aquent is hiring for an organization in D.C. looking for a marketing professional to work on campaign support as a communications writer:

Writer/Communications Specialist – Contract
Aquent – Washington, DC
the federal industry) as a journalistic/communications writer. This candidate will be responsible for writing, communications project management and other…
From Jobmagic

*Patch, which in an update the other day I noted was hiring a batch of “local editors” in the region, has an opening in D.C. for a regional director to help put together and manage its team here:

Regional Director
Patch – Washington, DC
to): Recruitment, training, payment oversight and… business coordination and communication Daily collaboration with Patch editors, copyeditors, publisher…
From Patch

*The Grameen Foundation in D.C. has an opening for a director of marketing and communications:

The Director of Marketing & Communications
Grameen Foundation – Washington, DC
Communications Grameen Foundation Washington, DC… The Director of Marketing and Communications… of Marketing and Communications reports to the VP…
From washingtonpost.com

*And to wrap up today’s leads, the United Way has an opening in Alexandria for the director of executive communications and on-site support:

Director, Executive Communications & Onsite Support
United Way – Alexandria, VA
Executive Communications and Onsite Support you will provide strategic communications support, including… Director, Executive Communication and Onsite Support…
From United Way

Happy hunting!



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