Having friends in high places can be a definite benefit when you’re looking for a job referral. Even acquaintances can help you land your dream position if they’re so inclined. But first things first—if they haven’t offered, you need to ask. That’s where some awkwardness can come in. How do you ask a friend to refer you to their company without seeming pushy, desperate, or exploitative? Here are some tips that will help you get the referral you want without putting unnecessary strain on the friendship.
It’s a question, not a demand
You might feel comfortable enough with your friend to say, “Hey! You’ve gotta get me a job at your company!” But no matter how close you two are, no one enjoys feeling like they’re having demands put on them. This approach could make your buddy feel defensive and resistant.
Instead of telling him to give you a referral, ask nicely. Say something like, “You’re so lucky to work at XYZ Corporation. I would love to work there. Would it be possible for you to give me a referral?” Make sure your friend knows this is a request—not a requirement of your friendship.
Make sure it’s reasonable
Your friend may be awesome, but that doesn’t mean she’s a miracle worker. If your bestie works at a high-tech company and you can barely operate your smart phone, you can’t expect her to put her reputation on the line for you. After all, if your friend refers you for a job, she’s basically telling her employer she thinks you’ll be a valuable asset to the company. If that turns out to be untrue, both of your good names will be in jeopardy.
If you don’t have the qualifications, work ethic, or commitment to make your friend look good, don’t put her in an untenable position. That’s taking unfair advantage of your relationship, and it’s not likely to end well career-wise or friendship-wise.
As any good scout knows, being prepared is essential for success. You can’t automatically assume your friend will be thrilled with the idea of giving you a referral. The fact is, if your pal knows you’re looking for a job and hasn’t already made the offer himself, there could be a reason. So be ready to defend yourself and explain, in a calm and logical way, why you think you would be a good fit for the company.
If you don’t have the best track record and that’s holding him back, show him how you’ve changed and matured. Give examples. Show enthusiasm. Let your friend know if he refers you for the job, you’ll make him proud.
Give them an out
You should be able to give good reasons for your friend to refer you, but you also have to accept it if they just don’t want to do it. Don’t get defensive or keep trying to push your point. Simply say, “Thank you for listening. I totally understand.” Don’t badger or make her feel like you’re unwilling to let it go. Present your case succinctly and objectively, and if she doesn’t take the bait, let her off the hook. You don’t want to find yourself short a referral and a friend.
Asking a friend for a job referral can feel a little uncomfortable for both parties, regardless of the level of closeness between you. But you can reduce some of that awkwardness by being humble, reasonable, prepared, and gracious. Your entire friendship isn’t based on this, so if the answer is no, don’t take it personally. And if the answer is yes, make sure you show your gratitude (a nice dinner or tickets to an event are a good way to go)—especially if you get the job!