How to Mention a Referral in Your Cover Letter

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If you know someone at a company or someone with a strong connection to a company, it can be helpful to mention them in your cover letter when you apply for a job. Having a referral can help you stand out from the crowd when you're job searching.

Mentioning that you're referred by someone is like getting an employment reference in advance. Hiring managers and recruiters will likely take a closer look at candidates with whom they share a mutual contact, and for good reason: studies have shown that hiring through employee referrals results in faster, cheaper, more effective hiring than relying on job sites.

Referral hires also tend to get up to speed more quickly, fit in better, and stay with the company longer.

Mentioning your referral and shared connection in your cover letter can make the difference in helping your application get noticed by prospective employers.

It also gives the hiring manager some context for your work background and provides additional information about you.

What is a Referral Cover Letter?

A referral cover letter mentions a mutual connection when applying for a job. You might be referred by a colleague, a friend, an employee at the company you’re interested in, a client or vendor, or even your college career office.

The Benefits of Being Referred

Referred candidates are a leading source of new hires, and many employers actively seek referrals when hiring for open positions. Even if a company doesn't have a formal employee referral program, referrals are typically welcomed as a way to expedite the hiring process and secure strong candidates for available jobs.

Having a referral name to mention in your cover letter helps the hiring manager understand the shared connection you have with them or their employer. A referral also helps relate your experience to the open position and, depending on how you know the referring party, can provide some insight into how well you might fit in at the company.

Your cover letter also provides an opportunity to briefly highlight your education, skills, and qualifications for the job. In addition to mentioning your referral, you'll have the chance to add a few specific examples of why you are the best candidate for the position and share other details not included on your resume.

Who to Ask for a Referral

There are many different ways to be referred for a job. A connection at a company may inquire into whether you have an interest in exploring new opportunities. You may find that you're connected with an employee on LinkedIn. Before you apply for a job, take a look to see who you know at the organization.

The referral doesn't have to be a business connection. You can ask anyone you know at the company or who has a contact at the company if they would recommend you for a job.

Be sure to check with the individual in advance and ask if they are willing to give you a referral. Even if you’re certain they’d vouch for you, giving a potential referral the heads-up ensures that they’ll be ready and able to offer the best possible recommendation, given the job requirements.

You can send a letter or email asking for a referral, which gives the person the time and opportunity to think through what they can do for you, and how to proceed. Asking in writing also gives your connection an out if they aren't comfortable referring you.

How to Mention a Referral

  • Mention who is referring you. When you use a referral in your cover letter, mention them in the first paragraph. Include the individual by name and describe your connection with them as well.
  • Explain how you know the person. Give a brief account of how you know the person, and explain how they came to be familiar with your work qualifications and skills.
  • Describe why they are recommending you. If the person recommended that you apply for this particular position, take the opportunity to mention why they are endorsing you. What specific qualities of yours made them think that you would be a good fit for the company and for the job? What do you have to offer the company?

Here's an example of an introductory paragraph mentioning that the candidate has been referred by a colleague:

My colleague Amy Smith recommended that I contact you directly about the sales representative position at ABC, Inc. Amy and I have worked closely in the industry for many years, and she thought the company would be a good fit for my style and experience in sales. She pointed out that as a successful, award-winning salesperson, I would be an excellent addition to the team at ABC, Inc.

Tips for Writing a Referral Cover Letter

Name-dropping does not come easily to some people, especially if you're already wrestling with how to write about your accomplishments and sell yourself to a hiring manager. Even though it might be a challenge, being referred for a job can give you a boost over the competition. At the least, it should help you get considered for an interview. At best, it could give you a foot in the door that might lead to a job offer.

Review examples. If you're not sure what to write, it helps to look at examples of cover letters, although you'll want to tailor your letter to fit your specific personal and professional circumstances.

Mention the referral upfront. Remember to include a brief mention of your referral and recommendation right away in your cover letter. This strategy puts the referral at the front of the reader's mind, giving them context for the information that follows.

Make the best first impression. Expand on your strengths and why you're the best candidate for the job. Your cover letter offers a chance to make a strong first impression, since it's likely the first thing a hiring manager sees, possibly even before your resume.

Share your accomplishments. Mention brief examples of your successes in the workplace to prove that you are the most qualified person for the job.

Carefully proofread your letter. As with all business correspondence, make sure that you proofread your cover letter for correct spelling and grammar, and check that the information matches across all the documents you submit. 

Review a Referral Letter Sample

This is an example of a cover letter that mentions a referral. Download the referral cover letter template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online) or see below for more examples.

Screenshot of a referral mentioned in a cover letter
©TheBalance 2018

Review a Referral Letter Sample (Text Version)

Betty Forbes
999 Main Street
Anytown, MA 02222
555-123-4567
bforbes1223@email.com

September 1, 2018

George Smith
Marketing Director
Acme Communications
1234 Fragrant Way
Citytown, MA 02224

Dear Mr. Smith,

It was with great interest that I learned of the opening in your department for a marketing associate. Your marketing manager, Anna Black, was my supervisor at Catz Marketing before taking her current position with Acme Communications. As she can attest, I bring a unique perspective, and can integrate the many facets of a media campaign.

With Anna at Catz Marketing, I worked with a local company to build their business and promote their grand opening. We continued to work with them for the first few years, developing a total media plan and implementing it. Their continued success and recommendations brought other businesses to seek our services as well.

My experience with Catz Marketing has prepared me to take on the challenges of working in a national company such as Acme Communications, and I would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you to discuss how I can be an asset to your team. As well as my resume, you will find attached a link to my portfolio.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Betty Forbes [signature hard copy letter]

Betty Forbes

Article Sources

  1. LinkedIn. "Here is Why Employee Referrals are the Best Way to Hire," Accessed Nov. 3, 2019.

  2. Jobvite. "4 Reasons to Invest in Employee Referrals," Accessed Nov. 3, 2019.

  3. SHRM. "Employee Referrals Remain Top Source for Hires," Accessed Nov. 3, 2019.