How to ask for a job referral

There are a million ways to mess up when you ask someone for a referral for a job or for someone else — especially if you don’t know how well the two people know each other. Here’s what to keep in mind.

Be sure to hold their attention

Hannah Morgan, an author, speaker and founder of Career Sherpa, writes in U.S. News & World Report about “reaching out cold via email.”

“As a last-ditch effort to try and make contact with someone who works inside a company, you may resolve to sending a message to someone you don’t know at all. If you are lucky enough to find their email, use that, otherwise, you’ll have to send a message through LinkedIn. It’s important that your message hits the stranger’s radar so be sure to use an attention-grabbing subject line and engaging first sentence. Also make sure you reference something you both have in common such as college, LinkedIn groups or outside interests.”

Do the heavy lifting for them

This could make things easier.

Anum Hussain, cofounder of personal news assistant Acciyo, a former growth marketer at HubSpot and co-author of Twitter for Dummies, wrote about asking for a referral on HubSpot’s website.

She mentions that she wanted to “get in touch with” someone, and upon seeing on LinkedIn that the person went to the same school as one of her colleagues, she asked that connection for a referral.

Hussain goes on to mention that the issue is people’s lack of time, but that the “solution” is to “write the introduction yourself.”

“As mentioned, most people don’t want to waste any of their already precious time. So when I asked Andy for the referral, I was sure to write the bare bones of the introduction myself. That way, Andy could customize it without having to start from scratch,” she writes, before providing an example.

Give them “an out”

Alison Doyle, a career expert, author and founder and CEO of, writes about this in The Balance.

“The problem can be what they are going say. Rather, ask ‘Do you feel you know my work well enough to refer me for a job at your company?’ or ‘Do you feel you could give me a referral?’ That way, your referrer has an out if they are not comfortable providing a referral for you and you can be assured that those who say ‘yes’ will be enthusiastic about your performance and will write a positive letter or give you a strong endorsement,”

Here’s a sample script to use for your next referral request

Feel free to follow this template, which is roughly based on the tips above:

Hello [person you’re contacting], 

Hope you’re doing well at [X] company. 

I appreciate your time, so I’ll keep it short. I’m looking to get in contact with X at X company. 

I just saw that you have [X] in common with them, and was wondering if you would be interested in connecting the two of us for [X reason], if you know them well enough. 

To make things easier for you, I’ve already written out a basic sample script, just in case you’re on board— but if not, I understand. 

Looking forward to hearing from you,

[Your name here]