Asking for a referral is important. How you handle that referral is even more important. If you want to work at XYZ Company and you know someone that works there, you should ask them to refer you to a hiring manager. Ideally, your contact will make a personal introduction, or copy you on an e-mail introduction. Sometimes, you'll just get a phone number or e-mail address of the hiring manager.
Recently, someone e-mailed me their resume. There was no mention of how this person knew my e-mail address or even about what position they were inquiring. I didn't respond right away. I eventually did respond to the e-mail and politely asked if they were interested in a certain position. A few days later they replied with the name of the person that referred them to me - only the name, no other info.
Here are a few simple ways to be sure you handle the referral introduction well:
- If you're copied on a referral e-mail, reply back quickly thanking the referrer and including your resume and a brief cover letter or introduction.
- If you're just given the hiring manager's e-mail address, send an e-mail right away. Your subject should be something informative like, "Referral from Robert Smith - interested in Executive Assistant position". In the body of the e-mail, re-iterate who referred you and how you know them.
- If you're just given the hiring manager's phone number, ask your contact if there is a good time of day to call. Call as soon as you can, and when it's likely convenient for the hiring manager. Give a one-line introduction and ask for future time, "Hello Mrs. Lee. My name is Michelle Anderson. I was referred to you Robert Smith. I'm interested in your Executive Assistant position. Can I schedule a few minutes of your time sometime this week?".
Just like every other step in the job search process, be sure to graciously thank your contact for making the referral and keep them updated on your communication with the hiring manager.