Why You May (or May Not) Be Getting Referrals


As you focus on your networking skills in preparation for leaving the military, you must undoubtedly recognize that a huge benefit from having a varied and robust network of contacts is the potential for referrals -- someone who tells another about your skills, abilities or business to help you get closer to earning their business or getting hired for their open job.

There are various ways someone in your network can refer and promote you, including:

  • Letting you know of a job opening before it's published or promoted.
  • Introducing you to influencers who can advance your career.
  • Fast-tracking the interview process by directly forwarding your information to hiring managers and recruiters.
  • Referring you to a colleague who's looking to hire someone like you.
  • Introducing you to another networking contact who can engage your services.
  • Singing your praises on social media to their network.

What Happens When We Refer?

Think of a referral as the stamp of approval one person gives to another. Because of this, trust is paramount to feeling comfortable offering a quality referral. When we refer:

1. There is a transfer of credibility.

The referring person is putting their own credibility and reputation on the line to endorse and promote the other. If the experience goes south for the person receiving the referral, this could reflect negatively on the referring individual.

Imagine: John refers Adam for a job in John's company by personally walking Adam's resume into the recruiter's office with a glowing endorsement. John met Adam a couple of times, has a sense of his experience and goals, and thinks he'd be a good fit for an open position.

2. People consider the relationship between the referrer and referred.

Are you too close to the person to see their flaws and shortcomings? Is your relationship one that could look like a conflict of interest?

Imagine: As the parent of a recent college graduate, you want to see your child succeed. So, you mass email your entire network and promote your son's resume, share funny insights about him and vouch for his character. While this might be appropriate in some settings, in others it could be seen as crossing a line between personal and professional. Certainly, tread lightly when referring and promoting family and close friends, particularly if you do not disclose the relationship in advance.

3. You should carefully consider your own referral.

Before shouting anyone's praises from the rooftops, be sure you are clear about how you know the other person and whether you are able to judge them in this capacity. Have you had firsthand experience working with them? Are you confident they are as skilled as you promise?

Imagine: Someone in your LinkedIn network, whom you met years ago while in the military, is trying to make contact with your big client. They are excited about a proposal they want to put in front of the client, so they ask for your help referring them. The context you knew this person in was the military -- and they were stellar at their work -- but now they sell insurance.

Are you qualified to refer to them as a military veteran or as an insurance agent? You might answer yes, and that's great if you are comfortable, but remember that different contexts can bring out different sides of people you might know only casually.

When Adam makes inappropriate remarks in the interview, shows up unprepared for questions and fails to follow up after the job interview, the hiring manager's perception of John and the quality of John's introductions suffers. The manager may even question whether John is a good judge of character.

People consider the relationship between the referrer and referred.

Are You Getting Referred?

As you reflect on the referrals you are receiving (or not receiving), consider whether you've built trust and credibility with your referring sources, ask yourself if they have enough context and experience with you to feel comfortable advancing your name in key situations and opportunities, and whether the relationship you've established with them is sufficient to warrant an introduction.

If the answers to any of these questions are negative or uncertain, consider how you can begin to establish positive ways to advance yourself within your professional network.


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