Companies hire some of their top talents through referrals. When you personally know someone who has the right skills for an open job position, referring them helps employers save time and money in the hiring process. In this article, we discuss what to consider when referring someone for a job and how best to refer someone, plus see a template and example referral letter.
What to consider when referring someone for a job
Before you refer someone for a job, it is important to consider two main things: whether your contact is fully qualified for the position and if they have a strong work ethic. If not, their behavior may reflect poorly on you as the referrer. Another thing to consider is how your relationship may change if your contact does not get hired for the position. After you’ve given the decision some thought and still want to provide the referral, make sure to follow your company’s rules regarding job referrals.
How to refer someone for a job
Follow these steps to refer someone for a job position:
1. Ask internally
Depending on the size of the company, you may need to approach job referrals in a specific way. For example, larger companies with human resources (HR) departments may have a specific application process for applicants to follow and a special way of noting your referral. You may even be eligible for a referral bonus. In smaller companies, it may be more appropriate to request time with the owner to discuss the details of your referral. This way, you’ll be able to answer any questions directly regarding the applicant.
2. Write a referral letter
While you may choose to discuss your referral in-person, it is always a good idea to write a referral letter for employers to keep on file. This may take the form of an email, depending on your company’s preferences. When writing the letter, keep your tone professional and positive. Include these key details about the person you’re referring:
- How well you know them
- Length of time you’ve known them
- Key skills and traits they have that align with company values
If you need help deciding what skills to include, call your requestor and ask them specific questions about their work history to learn more about their qualifications.
3. Follow up
After you’ve submitted your job referral, allow a good amount of time to pass—usually one month at a minimum—before following up with the hiring manager. The hiring process takes time, especially during certain months of the year when employees take longer vacations and departments experience a high volume of work. If you’re an internal employee, here is an example of an email you may send to check on the status of your contact’s application:
“Hello! I’d like to follow up on the status of a job referral I submitted last month for [ applicant’s name ] . She applied for the [ job title ] position. Do you know if this has been filled? If not, are you still reviewing candidates? Please let me know if you have any questions for me.”
Tips for an effective referral
As you’re working through the referral process, follow these tips for an effective referral:
- Only agree to referrals you support. If you feel hesitant to refer someone for a job, it is probably best to let them know that the position is not a good fit.
Follow the business letter format. In general, it’s always a good idea to default to a business letter format when you’re writing a professional reference. This appeals to all employers.
Reference the job description. Before you write the letter, make sure you understand exactly what skills and experience the company wants in a candidate. You’ll be able to highlight the requestor’s best attributes as they relate to the specific position.
Use specific examples. When you use specific examples, it makes it easier for employers to visualize people working for the company. List at least two examples that support your recommendation.
Job referral template
Follow this template when writing a job referral:
[ Your full name ]
[ Your address, phone and email ]
[ Hiring manager’s name ]
[ Company name ]
[ Company’s full address ]
[ Paragraph 1: Describe your recommendation by listing the person’s full name and desired position. In the next sentence, explain how you know them and the length of your relationship. End the paragraph by describing their key skills ] .
[ Paragraph 2: Using a few sentences, give specific examples of how the applicant used their skills to help them accomplish work goals. Keep your tone positive throughout the body of the letter. ]
[ Paragraph 3: Finish the letter by describing how the applicant’s skills and experience would benefit the company. Restate your recommendation. End this paragraph with a sentence that invites the hiring manager to contact you with any questions. ]
[ Your handwritten signature ]
Download Letter of Referral Template
To upload the template into Google Docs, go to File > Open > and select the correct downloaded file.
Job referral example
When writing a referral, it helps to have a reference to guide you. Here is an example of a referral letter written in business letter format:
5987 Hollow Point Lane
Denver, CO 80014
5959 Rio Boulevard
Denver, CO 80014
As you are reviewing candidates for the open customer service position, I thought I would take the time to recommend my friend, Morgan Little, for the job. I’ve known Morgan for the past three years when we met in college during a business development class. More recently, she and I worked together in a call center last summer. I was constantly impressed with her conversational skills and attention to detail.
She always spoke to customers in a respectful manner. Even when dealing with difficult calls, she never once lost her composure. Her account notes were always free of typos or negative remarks. She always treated everyone with respect and worked hard to meet her daily goals. As a result, she consistently earned the “Top Achiever” award.
For these reasons, I believe she would do well in a customer service role and positively represent your company. Please let me know if you have any questions about Morgan’s candidacy for the role.
I help people get jobs that matter
How to Recommend a Friend or Colleague for a Job
You might come across a situation where you know a friend or colleague who is job-seeking and could use a little “push” or extra help in their search. Potentially, this friend may actually be interested in working at a place you have worked before or where you have connections. If you are comfortable with it, you can help your friend by writing a brief recommendation note to your contacts, once you’ve talked with your friend and know for sure that he or she is applying.
But what to say? Here’s a brief template you can adapt to help your colleague:
Dear Ms. Employer,
How are you? I hope all is well. I know your organization is currently recruiting for a position of . I don’t know if you are open to referrals for this position, but in case you are, I would like to put in a good word for a of mine, .
I’ve known for the last # years, and in my experience, he is (reliable, trustworthy, hard-working, collegial etc.). We worked together on XYZ project, and he was one of the best contributors to the team. Our challenge was (XYZ) and he helped solve the problem by . He also has a proven commitment to the field of as shown by his years of experience/volunteering in the field. Last but not least, he is very dedicated to your cause and he told me this would be a dream job for him.
I would be glad to answer any questions you may have about . Thanks for your consideration, and have a great day. Best,
Need help navigating the job search process, or leveraging your network to land you more interviews? Contact me to ask about how my career coaching services can help.
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Recommending a friend for a job can be a positive, beneficial experience, providing the friend is qualified and a good candidate for the position. This type of personal recommendation does have the potential to get tricky, however, if you don’t have full confidence in your friend’s abilities or you feel pressured into making the introduction.
Recommending Within Your Own Company
Many companies encourage their employees to recommend friends or former colleagues for positions in the organization. The theory is that someone who comes with an internal recommendation is more likely to be a good fit and have an inside perspective about what the company is all about. If you work for such a company and want to recommend a friend for a position, consider certain issues before making a move:
- Is the friend qualified for the position?
- Does the friend have a good work ethic?
- Will the friend’s behavior or performance potentially have a negative effect on you in any way?
- Will your friendship be damaged if your friend doesn’t get the job?
After asking yourself these questions, if you’re still comfortable making a recommendation, follow your company’s internal protocols. If no such protocols for making personal recommendations exist, take one of these approaches:
- Ask human resources about the best way to recommend a friend for a job. They’ll likely direct the applicant to follow the established job application process, with a notation in the file that the person has an inside recommendation.
- Write a letter for your friend to attach to his application and suggest he mention your name and recommendation in his cover letter.
- In a small company, talk to the boss personally to say you’d like to make a recommendation via a personal introduction. An informal coffee or lunch meeting can get the ball rolling.
Provide Appropriate Details
Whether you write a letter or make a personal introduction on your friend’s behalf, the way in which you describe your friend can make or break his chances for employment. Focus on a few things in your recommendation:
- how you know the person and for how long
- the person’s background, education and experience
- key traits about the person you know the company considers to be assets, such as loyalty, dedication or multi-tasking skills.
I would like to recommend my friend Glenn Dougan for the open graphic designer position. Glenn and I interned together at the same ad agency when we were in college, and I can attest to his abilities as an artist. He has a keen insight for color and shape, he’s very detail oriented and he values the opportunity to collaborate with others. He has five years of agency experience, and I know he’s interested in finding a new home where he can really showcase his skills and grow with the company. He has a great sense of humor and is one of the most dedicated people I know. I’m confident he would be a great addition to the team.
Making an Outside Recommendation
It may be that you know someone who knows someone else in a company your friend wants to work for, and they’re seeking your help in opening some doors. While the same standards apply – recommend only qualified individuals – you can handle this request in several ways:
Make an email introduction by writing a note to your contact and copying your friend:
Stan, I’d like to introduce you to my buddy, Ryan, copied here. Ryan is an exceptional chef and he’s interested in learning about potential opportunities with your restaurant. I’ve attached his resume. If it feels like a good match, I’ll trust you to reach out to Ryan personally.
Make a phone call:
Hi Susan, I just wanted to connect and give you a lead on a talented pet groomer I’ve known for several years. My friend, Lindy, recently relocated to the area and she’s looking for work in a grooming salon. Could I send you her resume?
Write a letter:
I would like to offer my recommendation of Gloria Tillery for the role of supervising manager. Gloria has been a personal family friend for several years, and she is a highly competent individual who would be an excellent addition to your staff.
There may be a time when a friend, colleague or acquaintance tries to strong-arm you into recommending them for a job, but you know it’s not a good fit. In this case, your best bet is to be upfront and let the friend know you don’t feel they’re an appropriate match for the position.
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A friend, co-worker or family member who is looking for a job may seek you out to write a recommendation for him. Whether this individual wants to work at your place of business, another company or somewhere else where you have connections, write a letter using specially chosen words to help him get the position. To figure out which words to use, interview him to know specifically what’s he’s interested in and then get started.
A reference letter usually takes a standard business letter format. Put the recipient’s name, if you know it, and the company’s business address at the top, and begin by introducing yourself and the job candidate. Suggested words to make the intent of your letter clear include “pleased,” “honored,” “delighted” and “privileged.”
In the recommendation, include facts supplied by the job candidate including his title, role and credentials. Follow up with specifics about the person’s qualifications for the job. You may also want to add details about how you rate the individual and use words like “dedicated,” “conscientious,” “stellar,” “exemplary,” “persistent,” “diligent,” “extraordinary” and “accurate.”
You should you know the job candidate reasonably well and be comfortable stating your connection. You want to provide an authoritative comment on the academic or functional ability of someone you’ve observed over time. You should be able to give an honest and positive review without hesitation. Some suggested words for recommending someone who is looking for employment regarding your connection with him include “acquainted,” “supervised,” “appreciated,” “respected” and “qualified.”
Summarizing the job candidate’s desire to find new employment typically includes providing concrete examples of how he could use his skills to the target company’s advantage. Conclude the letter on a confident note and offer to correspond further. Use words such as “contact,” “speak,” “exchange” or “meet” to make it clear you have further information to share about him.
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Tara Duggan is a Project Management Professional (PMP) specializing in knowledge management and instructional design. For over 25 years she has developed quality training materials for a variety of products and services supporting such companies as Digital Equipment Corporation, Compaq and HP. Her freelance work is published on various websites.
- A new advancement about reference letters when someone leaves the company is available. The presence of liability laws, the employers became very cautious about what they note down about the employees that were fired or who quits. The employers can now file a lawsuit if they found out that the employee was far from the qualities that were written on the recommendation letter. As a consequence, the recommendation letter is commonly short and only provide details that can be checked by the person. These are details such as time of employment, job description, and work produced and others. On the other hand, a reference letter where a person lists individuals as a reference for the new job post is a different one. Unlike the recommendation letter, it is not treated as a legally binding letter, and it is commonly used in describing the persona??s good characteristics. Nonetheless, it is always reasonable to not use exaggerations. When you are having hesitations in writing a recommendation letter or a reference letter for someone, look for Declining to write a letter of Recommendation?
In writing this letter, first be sure to check your organization??s rules about letters of recommendation. There are already a lot of policies that have been set to protect against potential cases. When planning to write a letter, be sure to write only real facts that you have observed on the person, do not write offensive and uncomplimentary words. If you cannot??t write a letter, then politely decline. Target employers are excellent in reading between the lines. If there are contrary indications in the letter, these might damage the employee??s chance of getting the new post.
If the one who asked for a recommendation letter gave you a form to fill out, you can provide comments on the space on the form or write it on a new paper. You commonly sign your name across the seal, especially when sending confidential mail. This is a usual routine in an academic application.
Often, when you are writing a recommendation letter, you are also aware of who the future employer is and what the vacant position is. Explain the past employee??s work, performance, qualities and other essential information. Give the letter to the person to deliver it, instead of sending it directly through the mail, be conscious that he or she might read it.
There are times when you write a letter of recommendation, and you don not know the details of who the employer is and what the vacant position is. You can write a reference letter. Instead, it is almost the same in writing a recommendation letter. However, a reference letter is more general. It is usually used to make known the person to the employer, talk about the persona??s character and principles. The person who will receive it will read it and may use it as a future reference.
Avoid adding comments such as race, color, religion, handicap, sex, national origin, marital or parental status. Do not put comments that could lead to being a bias of aggregate preferences.
Illustration by Ashley DeLeon. © The Balance 2018
Do you need to write a reference letter for a friend or acquaintance? Someone you know may ask you to submit a personal (or character) reference for them. A character reference is a reference from someone you know personally, rather than a former employer. You might be asked to write a personal reference for a neighbor, acquaintance, advisor, or someone you volunteer with.
People often use character references in addition or as an alternative to employment reference letters.
People might choose to use a character reference if their work record is not perfect, or if it is their first job.
Below are tips on how to write a character reference for a friend, as well as a sample reference letter, and a template to download.
Before You Write the Letter
- Collect information: Ask the person for whom you’re writing the letter for a copy of his or her resume or CV so that you can speak to the person’s experience.
- Think carefully about saying yes: Make sure you only agree to write the letter if you can write a positive recommendation. If you don’t think you can, tell the person you are not comfortable writing the recommendation. Here’s how to turn down a recommendation request.
What to Include in the Letter
- Focus on the particular job: Ask your friend for information on the job they are applying for. This way, you can focus on the requirements of the position. Try to include language from the job listing, if your friend shares the listing with you. Even if you are writing a more general recommendation, you can still ask your friend about the types of jobs they will be applying for.
- Explain how you know the person: In the introduction, briefly explain how you know the person, and for how long you have known him or her. You do not have to give details about how you met; you can simply say that you have known the person personally for however many years.
- Include specific examples: In the letter, provide specific examples of ways in which the person has demonstrated various qualities. Try to use examples that fit the job for which the person is applying.
- Remain positive: State that you think this person is a strong candidate for the position. Emphasize this both at the beginning and end of the letter. After all, you want to help this candidate stand out.
- Share your contact information: Provide a way for the employer to contact you if they have further questions. Include your email address, telephone number, or both at the end of the letter..
Tips for Writing a Reference Letter
Review Samples & Templates
It is a good idea to review letter of recommendation samples before writing your letter. Along with helping with your layout, examples can show you what kind of content you should include in your document.
You might also look at letter of recommendation templates to get a sense of how to lay out your recommendation, and what to include (such as introductions and body paragraphs).
Follow Formatting Guidelines
There are also useful guidelines for formatting recommendation letters including length, format, font, and how to organize your letter.
Tailor Your Letter to the Applicant
While examples, templates, and guidelines are a great starting point for your letter, you should always be flexible. You should tailor a letter example to fit your friend’s experience and the job to which he or she is applying.
Follow the Requester’s Guidelines
- Follow the submission guidelines: Ask the friend for whom you are writing a letter how to submit it. Make sure you follow any requirements, especially about where to send it and when, as well as the format (for example, PDF, physical letter, etc.).
Reference Letter for a Friend Template
This is an example of a reference letter for a friend. Download the reference letter template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online) or see below for a text version.
Reference Letter for a Friend Example
123 Main Street
Anytown, CA 12345
Designs by Alex
123 Business Rd.
Business City, 54321
Dear Ms. Clement,
I am writing to you regarding Suzanne Element. I have known Suzanne personally for over ten years, and have always known her to be an organized and responsible individual. I believe that her skills and experience make her an excellent candidate for office manager in your organization.
When I met Suzanne, she had just left an administrative position in a busy Fashion House, where she was responsible for bookkeeping, answering phones, and making appointments. She took such pride in her work there and even developed strategies for making her bookkeeping more organized and efficient.
During the time I have known her, Suzanne has been active in our community, serving on the Library Board and the Historical Society. She has taken many responsible roles in both of these organizations; her contributions include acting as Secretary of the Library Board and heading the Historical Society’s Annual Fund Drive. She achieved multiple successes in both of these positions. For example, as head of the Historical Society’s Fund Drive, she helped raise 28% more funds than the previous year. Much of this had to do with her success in getting and organizing dozens of volunteers. Her passion, combined with her organization, makes her an asset to any organization.
If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me by phone or email.
You can use this Refer a friend for a job email template to encourage employee referrals. If you’re already using Workable, this email could be part of your employee referral program communication. Or, you could also get some ideas for building your first employee referral program.
Send this email to encourage employees to refer their friends for open roles. Be clear about the information you seek, like skill set, professional experience and knowledge of job-related software. If your company offers an employee referral bonus program, include details about the incentives in your email.
If you want referrals for one specific role, customize this “Refer a friend for a job” email template to include job requirements. Or, use our employee referral program sample email.
Sourcing candidates? People Search from Workable is the fastest, most effective way to find email addresses, resumes, social and professional profiles.
Refer a friend email template:
Email Subject Line: We’re hiring! / Refer a friend to work with us!
As you know, here at [Company_name], we are always looking to grow our teams with talented people, just like you.
If you know someone who you think would be a good fit here, let us know. To make this process easier for all, please refer your friend by answering the following questions:
- What’s the name of the person you want to refer and how do you know them? (e.g. “X is a former colleague from Y company”)
- For what role(s) will this person be suitable for? (e.g. Account Manager in the Sales department)
- What’s their main area of expertise and their most significant skills? (e.g. “solid knowledge of X HRIS system and experience managing payroll for large companies”)
- If you’ve previously worked together, mention one or two things that make your friend a good coworker. (e.g. “always meets deadlines”, “gives memorable presentations” or “is willing to help fellow team members”)
- Why do you think this person would be a good fit for our company? (e.g. “has a broad network and can help us expand our customer base,” “is very creative and passionate about web design and can contribute with new ideas” or “works well under pressure and will help our team stay organized.”)
Please attach your friend’s contact details and resume to the email and leave next steps to us.
Your “stamp of approval” is precious. When you recommend someone for a job—whether a friend, family member, colleague or anyone else—your professional reputation is on the line.
Your contacts trust you and you’re essentially asking them to transfer that trust to another person. If that person loses their trust for any reason, it transfers right back to you. So your recommendation creates a bond between all of you. Don’t take the decision lightly.
Before you stick your neck out for someone, consider these five questions:
1. Does this person really want the job? Are you pushing your friend/colleague/family member to do something he or she isn’t really interested in doing? Would this person still want the job if not for your (potential) recommendation?
You don’t want this person to feel like they’re doing you a favor by taking the job. YOU are the one doing the favor. If they don’t really want it, they won’t put in the effort needed to represent you well. Make sure you aren’t putting yourself out on a limb for someone who doesn’t really care one way or another.
2. Do you know this person professionally, not just personally?
Unfortunately, people are different at work than they are at home. We have different standards for what we expect from people at work than we do in our personal lives. If this person is just a friend or even a family member, you may be sadly disappointed by their work ethic.
That doesn’t mean you can’t still recommend someone you haven’t worked with directly, but do your due diligence. What do you know about this person’s career history? Do you consider this person reliable and trustworthy? Is he or she polite and respectful? If you don’t see these traits in your personal interactions, you probably won’t see them in the workplace either.
3. Is this person really the right fit for the role and the organization?
It’s not enough to just LIKE the person you’re recommending. He or she should have the skills and character traits needed to succeed in the role and the organization. Your job is to pre-screen the person.
If he or she is missing an essential qualification, you might still make the recommendation. But you’d be smart to share that information early. The faith you have in this person could be more valuable, but you don’t want to misrepresent the facts. If this person truly isn’t the right match, you’re just wasting everyone’s time.
4. Is your relationship with this person strong enough to endure the potential challenges?
If this person gets the job, you’re now heavily invested in seeing him or her thrive in the role. Alternatively, if he or she doesn’t get the job, they may see you as a part of the problem. If either of these scenarios causes concern, think twice about your recommendation.
5. Are you willing to put your name and reputation on the line for this person?
This person is a direct reflection of you. Make sure you have absolute faith that he or she will represent you as well as you’d represent yourself—if not even better. You will be inextricably tied to this person’s professional successes and failures…at least at the very beginning. Eventually, hopefully, the person you recommend will make a name for himself and your connection will become a thing of the past. But right up front, it’s on your shoulders. Immediate problems will come back to haunt you.
Some people try to stipulate as they recommend someone that they only know them casually, hoping that the “connection” between them isn’t too strong. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work. The message doesn’t typically travel. If you’re making the recommendation, it’s assumed that you’ve done your due diligence and you’ve decided it’s a safe risk to take.
It might not be “fair”, but that’s the reality.
How to Decline Giving a Recommendation Request
So, you’ve asked yourself these questions and you’re just not ready to recommend this person. But how do you do that without hurting feelings and damaging the relationship? You have a few options:
“I don’t think I’d be the best person for this.”
I like this response because it’s non-confrontational. It puts the blame on YOU, not them. You’re basically saying that you don’t have the right pull, or authority, or reputation, or influence, or whatever to get the job done effectively. You don’t need to elaborate.
“I don’t feel I know you well enough (or have enough experience working with you, etc.) to provide a strong recommendation.”
This one requires a little more courage because you’re definitely telling the person something they don’t want to hear. Clearly they think you DO have the experience it takes to give them the recommendation they need. If you can, be honest with the person. Let him or her know the hesitations you’re feeling and why it’s important for you to practice integrity here. Perhaps you can provide this person with some helpful insight and coaching. Obviously they respect you enough to have asked for this favor. You might be able to offer some valuable professional advice, if they’re willing to hear it.
“I’m sorry but I don’t typically make recommendations like that.”
This one is straightforward and simply tells the person that you have a standard rule against doing what they’ve asked for. It subtly implies that you’ve (perhaps) been burned in this kind of situation in the past. The word “typically” provides you with flexibility should this person find out in the future that you recommended someone else.