Sample Referral Emails for Career Networking

Referral letter

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Eighty percent of job seekers say their network has helped them get a job. If you haven’t tapped into yours yet, you may be overlooking the key to landing the job of your dreams. But you’ll never know for sure unless you reach out and ask for a referral.

This often means going beyond your immediate network and contacting people who share a mutual acquaintance with someone you know. Referral letters are a perfect way to ask these more distant connections for job leads, advice and/or contacts at employers.

Even if your letter doesn’t immediately lead to a new job, it can expand your network, which increases your chances of hearing about the next opportunity that would be perfect for you.

A referral letter might also net you valuable career advice or a brand-new mentor who can guide you to new levels in your field.

Of course, if you’re not in the habit of hitting up relative strangers for help, this can feel a little uncomfortable at first. It’s useful to have a template in mind, to make things easier.

But first, a few tips on what your referral letter should contain – and what it shouldn’t.

Melissa Ling. © The Balance 2018

Tips for Sending a Referral Letter That Gets Attention

  • Emphasize the mutual acquaintance. Whether you’re hoping for a job lead or just some tips on moving to a new area or field, it’s a good idea to start by mentioning the connection you have in common. We’re all busy; letting the recipient know where you’re coming from will help them prioritize your letter. If you’re looking for a job, referring to a mutual acquaintance will give you an advantage over the other applicants. In the working world, often it’s the “who you know” that can make the difference between getting an interview and having your resume passed by.
  • Use your subject line to your advantage. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to use “Referred by” with the name of your mutual acquaintance to identify your connection.
  • Format it as a business letter. This is a professional communication, which means that a business letter format will make the best impression. Again, if you choose email, be sure to make your subject line clear, so your letter isn’t deleted as trash before it gets read.
  • Get right to the point. When writing to someone to ask for job search help, it’s especially important to be professional, get right to the point of your letter and be appreciative of any time they are willing to give you.
  • Proofread your work. Better yet, have a trusted friend proofread it for you. It’s hard to see your own mistakes, but the recipient will probably spot them right away. Fairly or not, it will affect their opinion of you. Now is not the time to make a silly mistake.
  • Be sure to send a follow-up thank-you note. Reach out to the mutual contact who referred you, and send them a note to thank them for their time and effort.

Referral Letter Example

You can use this sample as a model to write a referral letter. Download the template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online), or read the text version below.

sample referral letter for career networking
©TheBalance 2018 

Referral Letter Example (Text Version)

Your Firstname Lastname 
Your Address 
Your City, State Zip Code 
Your Phone Number 
Your Email


Firstname Lastname 
Job Title 
City, State Zip Code

Dear Mr. Lastname,

I am a friend of Janice Dolan and she encouraged me to forward my resume to you. I know Janice through the Brandon Theater Group, where I am the technical director. We worked together on several local theater projects.

I'm interested in relocating to the San Francisco area in the near future. I would appreciate any recommendations you can offer for conducting a job search for a theater position or finding job leads, and any help you can provide with the logistics of relocating to California.

My resume is attached. Most of my theatrical experience is in lighting and projection design; however, I have worked in most backstage areas during my career.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.


Your Signature (hard copy letter)

Your Typed Name

Referral Email Example

Subject: Referred by Chris Rogers

Dear Ms. Weiss,

My colleague Chris Rogers recommended I contact you to find out if you had any recommendations regarding employment in the publishing industry in New York. I am currently employed at Polar Publishing House as an assistant marketing director.

I would be thankful for any advice you have regarding my job search. I would greatly appreciate it if you would review my resume, and I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you at your convenience.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.


Betsy Billings