Referrals: How to get your job application to the front of the line

 

At Acadiate, part of our mission is to demystify the hiring processes for new graduates, give them insight into how to gain a competitive edge and provide them with the tools to effectively execute that competitive edge.

As we interview and engage on-campus recruiters, we are asking the important questions to better understand their processes for screening.  Of particular note, the role of the “referral” is coming up more explicitly as an effective tool for an on-campus recruiter to screen up-front the suitability of new graduates.

This is not a new concept, it is a tried and tested method, especially for summer jobs and non-graduate jobs. It is logical and understandable. If you know someone within a company through friends or family and they vouch for you, it dramatically helps your prospects. Often described as having the inside tract because you “know someone”. You have a warm feeling they will promote your benefits and walk your application through the hiring process before the hiring process is opened up to the masses.

One of the reoccurring themes from our discussions with on-campus recruiters is they actually encourage students to contact and engage other employees of their company. They openly advise students to get involved in hack-a-thons, attend on-campus company events, reach out to a HR employee or any employee to have career discussions on the company or the industry.  They want to see if you show interest, passion and commitment. So few students take such initiative, it is a statement as to the strength of your character, drive and interest level in the company. They see such engagement, particularly if it is sustained over time, as a strong indicator of potential success in their company.

For a recruiter, they are particularly interested in the level of contact you seek and engage. The more senior an employee you seek out the better because it shows confidence, drive and special skills for networking that are highly prized and few new graduates demonstrate.  For new graduates, this is interesting because it does not necessarily rely on your “existing network” or personal connections. This can be achieved with just a simple cold phone call …..

For us at Acadiate, it is really interesting that it is encouraged and that if you do not ….. your job applications is dramatically less likely to be reviewed. This is for two reasons, the first is for the reasons already mentioned, but second is it helps the recruiter to leverage fellow employee’s time and insight to effectively pre-interview you. If they see enough qualities and traits in you to be successful within their company, they will refer you, making the recruiters job much easier and more reliable.

Some companies, particularly in technology and start-up companies, have incentives in the thousands of dollars for a referral that leads to a hiring.  We have been told, that some companies actually encourage employees to “go out and find the people you would like to work with …”.

The unseen or non-advertised job market is often estimated to be 5 times the size of the market that is publicly advertised.

The key is how well you engage and document that experience. It is important to have a plan for engaging, prepare reasonable questions, have a professional tact and sense of respect for their time. But most importantly, the assertiveness at the right time to ask for a formal referral (effectively being able to drop their name in your job application).

We have been told that most large companies have a structured referral program, as much to reward employees, but to structurally flag a referral for review before the screening starts for applications submitted through the formal process. For on-campus recruiters their screening process for their openings for new graduates, typically starts with (1) previous coop students, (2) previous interns, (3) referrals. If they cannot fill positions based on these three pools, they then start screening candidates from the publicly advertised pool. The unfortunate situation is that most of the positions are already filled before getting to that public pool. Referrals are like getting into the VIP line into a night club. Arguably, a referral could have more weight in your application, then anything else you can put into your job application.

We go into greater detail on the tactics and processes for getting referrals in Acadiate 101, which is available to those with premium accounts. The advantage of using Acadiate’s Showcase is we structurally enable students to better document and present their referral to a company to make sure their referral is better noticed and flagged.

Remember, you need not stop at one referral, seek multiple referrals. We have been told some high profile tech companies rely on professors and other well positioned “thought leaders” to provide referrals, which function more as a reference. Seek as many of them over time, try to keep them fresh by reengaging, but keep good records.  Acadiate provides tools to help you document and keep good records.