Job Search Tools: References vs. Referrals

References and referrals have become the most commonly used networking tools for job seekers. Both can be critical in landing your next position, but what’s the difference between the two?


A reference is the person a recruiter hiring manager or your potential future employer can call on to testify to your character or overall performance during one of your former positions. However, make sure you choose your references wisely. This person must be willing to do more than praise you.

“Recruiters and hiring managers are looking for someone who can speak to your performance and impact on the team; someone who was in a position to rely on your performance and offer a glimpse of how you will perform in the future,” according to Ladders article “How to Choose Your Job References.”


On the other hand, a referral is the person who will pass your name on for consideration for an open position. An overwhelming seventy percent of jobs are obtained via referral according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Referral relations dominate the hiring process, said an article on Ladders. “Your network can plug you into unadvertised positions and deliver a competitive advantage,” the article states. “By keeping your contacts fresh and maintaining good relationships, it is more likely that new opportunities will find you even when you are not actively seeking a new challenge.”