How to Ask for an Online Referral in Your Job Search

Getting a referral for your job search isn’t always as easy as it sounds. What do you do when you ask a former boss or co-worker for an online referral and he says, “Why don’t you write it up for me, and I’ll paste it into your online résumé”?

Apart from letting him know that his attitude is a bit outdated, you can always explain that you’ve already written several versions of a recommendation letter and you’re concerned about them sounding the same. Tell your former boss or co-worker that you’d appreciate if he could take just five minutes to write a few sentences covering points you provide.

Offering your recommenders three points you’d like them to cover can help them collect their thoughts and organize their words. It also helps ensure that whoever reads the recommendation finds out what you want him or her to know.

When you give your recommender guidance, think about what elements of your personal brand you want to reinforce. And don’t give everyone the same topic to focus on. When asking a former boss or co-worker for a recommendation, these tips may come in handy:

  • Expect a 50 percent response rate. If you’re aiming for three recommendations, send out six requests.

  • Follow up your request with a phone call. Using e-mail or LinkedIn’s request system alone can be ineffective.

  • Use the online résumé’s recommendation system, if it has one. Using the online résumé service’s recommendation system makes writing recommendations easier.

  • Tell your recommenders how little time it takes to write a recommendation and how much it’ll impact your career. If you put your request into concrete terms, people won’t feel like you’re asking for a big commitment. For example, you can say, “It will take only five to ten minutes of your time and will really help my career prospects.”

  • Make certain the person you choose can offer concrete examples to each of the points you want her to make. The person you ask should be in a position to draw from experiences with you.

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