How to Navigate a Complicated Referral Request

5 Questions to Consider Before Referring a Colleague


It’s no secret that a job referral is the ultimate advantage to getting your resume noticed and landing your dream job. It’s all about networking and getting your proverbial foot in the door. Your LinkedIn and personal email have likely received at least a few messages from colleagues kindly asking for a referral at your company. This type of request can put you between a rock and a hard place, as a failed referral can bruise your reputation and your friendship. What should you consider before saying “yes” to giving a job referral?


Read on for 5 questions to consider before referring a colleague for a job:


1: How well do you know this person?

What is your history with them? Has it been positive or negative? Obviously you want to leave any drama out of the office. If you have any inclination that they may add stress to your professional life, opt out. Leave your referrals for colleagues that you have a positive past with and a good feeling about. If they are an acquaintance or someone you don’t really know, ask a mutual friend for input. If you cannot gain any insight into this person, I would kindly decline.


2: Have you had a conversation about the job opportunity?

If you have a positive relationship with this person, by all means move forward. Take the time to hop on a call with your colleague to go into detail about the open position and their work history. This kind of insight will either solidify their interest or give them the opportunity to reconsider. I suggest always making time for these conversations so you can avoid aimlessly giving out job referrals.


3: Can you envision working with them?

It’s one thing to pass each other in the lobby each morning, but it’s another thing to work closely on projects with someone. While your colleague may not be hired into your department, there is always the possibility of corporate restructuring and lateral moves within the company. Does the thought of working on an important project with them make you cringe? Take a pass on any referral that could negatively impact your work in any way.


4: Is the company a good fit for them?

Discuss your company’s mission, values, and culture with your colleague before you agree to move forward with putting in a good word for them. If they do not agree, understand, or seem to be a good fit; chances are this will not be a successful referral. People are less likely to put in as much effort into their projects when they are not invested in their employer or their work. This is an easily avoided bad referral.


5: Will they be able to utilize their best talents?

Is the open role within your company really the next best step for your colleague’s career? If your employer can offer them the opportunity to flourish and grow as a professional, it could be a great referral! I would not give out referrals if I did not truly believe my colleague’s goals and talents would align with the company’s.


Unfortunately the pros of backing a good referral do not outweigh the cons of passing along a bad one. Be sure to do everything you can to ensure your professional and personal lives are left intact. If you decide that your company isn’t a good match for your colleague, don’t feel guilty! Offer to help them with their resume, cover letters, research, or interview preparation instead. In the end, you will still be supporting them in a positive way and avoiding a negative outcome for all.


A mid-sized firm was having trouble finding the right team member to fit into their flexible project needs. Everyone says they don’t mind shifting gears, but when the rubber hits the road not everyone can perform. We paired them with one of our amazing administrators with several years of strong experience.

She started out working on a Contract-to-Hire basis for this firm and was truly skilled in her project management abilities and able to manage sensitive material that came up at a moment’s notice. She was excited to be a part of a firm that needed her time management skills but more importantly her flexibility as an intricate team member. She just celebrated her Full-Time conversion and she and the manager could not be happier that she has joined his team.

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