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3 things to consider before making a referral

In addition to knowing when and why to make a referral or more casual introduction, it’s also important to think about the potential for fallout after making a referral. Before you put your reputation on the line and make a referral in your own workplace, there are a few things to consider.

“According to Fortune magazine, 44% of new hires are employee referrals. It is no secret that there is tremendous potential when you can refer a friend or contact directly to a role in your company” said Robin Reshwan, President, Collegial Services and CS Advising.

1. Will the referral represent you well?

Reshwan noted that “most people believe that ‘birds of a feather, flock together’ — so make sure the candidate you refer is known for being polite, professional, punctual and honest.” When someone’s a personal referral you might not be able to vouch for their technical abilities, but you should still “feel confident that she will display all the other characteristics of an interested professional who appreciates an opportunity.”

While it’s great to want to help a friend or help out your boss in the candidate search, it’s crucial to always put your own job and reputation first. Don’t do it if there’s even the slightest chance you could end up with egg on your face.

2. Don’t vouch for more than you know

While it’s tempting to rave about your friend or favorite former co-worker, resist the urge to oversell.

“If you have never witnessed her work product, for example, do not feel the need to endorse qualities or accomplishments of which you have no first-hand knowledge,” said Reshwan. “Your judgment is on the line, so keep your endorsement to areas that you feel confident in discussing/recommending.”

Only recommend the skills you’ve seen first-hand. If you’ve heard rumors but never witnessed your friend in action, don’t claim that you did. You could end up looking like a liar and end up damaging your own reputation.

3. Don’t do the heavy lifting

While it’s great for you to help your friend as much as possible, realize that it’s ultimately their responsibility to ensure they get the interview, much less the gig.

“Feel free to advise your referral on what is required for the role or give insight into company value and culture,” Reshwan said, “but do not feel like you have to take on the work of applying for [them].”

The hope is that your friend will be motivated enough to follow up and follow through. “If the contact is truly interested, [they] should take the time to use your information to customize [their] resume, write a clear and compelling introduction and follow up promptly throughout the process,” Reshwan added. “At the end of the day, you still work for the company, so it is key that you don’t overextend yourself to the detriment to your own career or reputation.”

The old “teach a man to fish” proverb is timeless for a reason. While you can make a referral, trying to force a friend to move forward in the process isn’t a good idea. They might lack motivation, or someone might end up blaming you. You did your part, it’s okay to move on after that.

This is the second part of an article that ran in September on making referrals.

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Rachel Weingarten is a marketing & brand strategist and president of 729.marketing. She's a pop culture and trends analyst who frequently writes about business and style and the business of style. Rachel's a sometimes professor, teaching personal branding on the graduate and undergraduate levels. She leads corporate seminars on topics including evolving communication and spirituality in the workplace. Rachel is also the author of three award winning non-fiction books.