Company Contacts: How to use your contacts to follow up or get referrals

You applied for a great job and your hopes were high. You are qualified, highly experienced, sent an optimized resume showcasing your expertise, and you’re ready to be invited to an interview. The only issue? You applied some time ago and have not heard back.

That’s usually the right time to send a great follow up email. Alternatively, you may want to use your contacts to get a referral at the outset.

First of all, if you applied for a job and haven’t heard back, keep in mind that hiring managers don’t always respond immediately. The application process could have a closing date that hasn’t yet passed; or – and this is increasingly likely – the response exceeded expectations and there’s a lot to deal with.

And if you’re at the start of the process and hoping to get a referral, or at least to have your enthusiastic candidature pointed out to the hiring manager, doing it right (or at all), isn’t easy.

So what do you do? How do you ensure your referral request or follow up email don’t give the wrong impression? How do you ensure they show an enthusiastic candidate who may well be the best fit?

Let’s take a look at both options.

Puzzled young woman in yellow t-shirt stands against a blue background with animated question marks floating around her.
Timing is everything. Especially for a job application follow up.

Where do I find company contacts?

Research on company sites and social media can help you find people to contact at companies you’ve applied to. On Ladders’ job search page, you can choose to purchase company contacts directly from us – a list of at least 10 contacts for $10 from any company you’re applying to. This is part of our time-saving drive for professionals, which includes our job application service, Apply4Me.

When to send your follow up email

A fair time period to allow before sending a follow up email would be around two weeks after submitting your application. If a closing date is given, wait until two weeks after that date has passed. This provides those involved in the hiring process with the time to deal with applications and have their minds set on the best possible fit.

A follow up email at this point can work strongly in your favor.

Which contact(s) should I send my email to?

If you can contact the hiring manager or recruiter directly, you should do so. If you have some company contacts who may not be directly involved in the hiring process, or you’re not sure, don’t be timid about cherry-picking one and sending your follow up – just don’t make the mistake of mass-sending your email to everybody at once. This is a personal request.

People in offices receive emails that aren’t directly related to their job all the time. The normal process is to forward them on to the right person. This is far more likely to happen if you compose your email in the right way and specifically ask for that kind favor, should you have contacted the recipient in error.

Never feel embarrassed about politely making a reasonable request.

How should my follow up email sound?

The way your email sounds to the reader (the tone of your email), couldn’t be more important. You may feel that the hiring manager should have called you the day after you submitted your application, begging for your expertise to take her company to the next level. If so, don’t mention it.

Some people are reluctant to consider follow up emails – or alternative communications – because they think it may seem desperate and put the hiring manager off. In the world of business (and beyond), the difference between seeming desperate, or angry, or professionally enthusiastic, is tone.

Being mindful of what you say and the way you say it is key to creating an impression.

A female office worker sits in front of her laptop with her head resting in her hands as she stares dreamily upwards.
Giving it some thought rather than rushing ahead is best.

How do I compose my email?

Your follow up email requires specific information, a specific tone, and a specific length:

  1. Subject line. For a follow up email, start with the name of the position you applied for, followed by the word “application” and your first and last name. For a referral request, start with the job title, followed by “job opening query”.
  2. Salutation. This can depend on the company. Many professionals today expect first name use. A formal approach is valid, however, and discernment can be used. It’s best to use the recipient’s name if possible.”Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name”. If you don’t have a name, or you’re unsure of the recipient’s sex, “Dear Sir/Madam,” can be used. You should not use: “To whom it may concern” when sending directly to an individual.
  3. Short intro. The first two to three lines of your email should be a quick summation of why you are reaching out. If you’re asking for a referral, attach your resume and mention that it’s attached.
  4. Reiteration of skills. For a follow up, this would be a very brief reminder, or highlight, of what you can offer the company. For a referral request, it would be an assurance that the resume attached quickly demonstrates your relevant experience.
  5. Formal ending. If a follow up, finish your email with an offer to resend your resume or application if required. If a referral request, offer to provide any additional info needed.
  6. Closing valediction. Give a professional sign off before your name.

Example of a follow up email

The following email example should give you a good idea of length and tone for your follow up email along with some ideas of what you might say and the brevity you should use:

Subject Line: Client Success Specialist Application – Paul Bryant

Dear Ms. Loi,

I am reaching out about a job application I submitted at the start of the month for the Client Success Specialist opening at your company. If I’ve contacted you in error, could I ask that you kindly forward this message to the hiring manager on my behalf?

I am extremely interested in working at Ladders, Inc., and I believe that my skills, especially my six years of experience in customer service, would make me a great fit for your team.

Please let me know if you would like me to provide or resend any information.

If you could confirm that my message has been forwarded, should that be needed, I would be extremely grateful.


Paul Bryant

Example of a referral request email

The following email example should give you a good idea of length and tone for your referral request email along with some ideas of what you might say and the brevity you should use, which is important when asking for a referral from a stranger.

Subject line: Client Success Specialist Job Opening Query.

Dear Ms. Loi,

I’m planning to apply for the position of Client Success Specialist with your company and would like to ask for your help in referring me to the hiring manager. Please find my resume attached.

My resume should make it clear that I am highly qualified for the position and would be a valuable member of the team at [Company Name].

If you feel you can’t make a reference on my behalf, I understand. However, if you could forward my request for a personal contact to the hiring manager, you would really be helping me to demonstrate my enthusiasm for this position.

If any further information is required, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Thank you in advance,

Paul Bryant

Follow up writing tips

When composing your follow up email, here are a few tips that can help you put your best foot forward:

  • Don’t be timid. Don’t be hesitant to reach out to your contacts. If you present yourself well in your email you will come across as an enthusiastic candidate and answer the question: “Is this somebody serious about the job and company?” with a resounding “Yes!”
  • Third time lucky? Mass-sending your email to every contact you have could appear desperate or angry. However, if you do not receive a response from the first contact you write to, you should send to another contact. After all, you’re not at fault.
  • Keep the email concise. While you do want to reiterate your interest and touch on why you are a good fit, make sure your email remains brief and on point.
  • Use professional language. Avoid using slang or other informal language. Write in the same way you would for any business correspondence.
  • Review the email for errors. Similar to your cover letter, your follow up email will help create the first impression someone has of you. Take time to review it.

Remember – if you ask for confirmation that your email was forwarded to the correct person (politely presuming that you may have reached out to the wrong person), and do not receive this confirmation, you are absolved from any embarrassment when sending to your next contact.

If you do receive this confirmation for a follow up email, you should write back with a (brief), thank you message. If no further response to your application and follow up happens in the following couple of weeks, do one of two things:

  1. Tie it off and move on. If the company doesn’t have the time or inclination to politely decline after you made the effort to apply and follow up, maybe it’s for the best.
  2. Send another email to:
    a. The person mentioned in your contact response email, if a new contact name was mentioned;
    b. Another of the contacts in your list if no name was mentioned.

If you receive no response to your referral request, you should consider sending your application anyway. If there is a reasonable length before the position closes for applications, you should move to another contact and ask again.

If you do receive a positive response, pay close attention to what is said. A hiring manager may thank you for your resume and say it will be considered; or you may be asked to apply through the normal channel.

Don’t be put off by that. You have demonstrated enthusiasm and it ought to be appreciated and remembered. Do as requested and send a very short note indicating your gratitude and that you will.

These two final options depend on how you feel about the position. What should not stop you is feelings of awkwardness about getting in touch. The hiring process can be complicated for those involved in it, so don’t jump to conclusions too soon.

Being politely enthusiastic, while remaining brief and professional, can impress and pay off. If it doesn’t, you’ve likely had a lucky escape.