How To Mention A Referral In Your Cover Letter (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar - Nov. 5, 2020

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When applying for a new job, it may be to your benefit to have a connection with someone already at the company or someone who may recommend you for the position. Having a relationship with someone the hiring manager or recruiter already knows can help you get better visibility when applying for a job.

Providing a referral during the interview process is like getting an employment reference in advance. When you have someone vouching for your abilities and work ethic, hiring managers and recruiters will likely take a much closer look at your resume and cover letter. The fact that you already have someone singing your praises will give you more credibility than someone coming in without a referral.

Studies have shown that hiring employee referrals results in more efficient and effective hiring than relying on job sites to surface applicable candidates. Candidates that are referred also tend to feel more of an obligation to the company, their reference, and their team, allowing them to get up to speed more quickly and adapt to the new culture and workplace more efficiently.

Once you have a referral from a colleague or a friend, the best way to promote this is to mention it in your cover letter. It’s the ideal place to share the specific reference and how you know the person referring you. It will also provide a topic of conversation at your interview.

What is a Referral Cover Letter?

A referral cover letter is an application document for a potential job opportunity that mentions a mutual contact you may share with the hiring manager or someone in the company. This connection can be an old colleague, a friend, or a networking acquaintance who likely works at the company you are applying to.

When done effectively, you can drop their name in your cover letter to emphasize how your skills and abilities align with the job and how you’ve worked with your referral in the past. You can mention specific projects and details that you know this person may be able to vouch for.

Your cover letter is the first thing your employer or hiring manager is likely to see, so use it as your moment to shine. This document will allow you to provide additional details about your education, qualifications, skills, and work ethic. You can point to specific projects and challenges you may have experienced and discuss how you overcame them and how those abilities translate to the job you are applying for.

The Benefits of Being Referred

Being a candidate who is referred by someone respected in the company is a tremendous benefit for you as a job seeker. Referred candidates are often the leading source of new hires, and some employers even offer incentives to existing employers who refer new employees who were hired by their recommendation.

Even if a company doesn’t have a formal employee referral program, the human resources (HR) department typically welcomes referrals. They help to expedite the hiring process and ensure that strong candidates fill open spots on teams.

When you are referred for a job, it might feel like a lot to live up to. However, if you view it as a step up during your interview process, you will be better suited for your interview. Ultimately, having a candidate referred gives the hiring manager an authentic glimpse into the kind of employee you will be and will help them relate your experience to the position.

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The person who referred you will likely be asked to provide insights into how you will fit into their company culture. However, there is no need to worry because the person who referred you would not have vouched for you if they didn’t think you were the right fit for this job.

Putting this referral in your cover letter will allow you to highlight the key skills you can bring to the position and provide specific examples of why you are the best fit for this job. Cover letters give you another area to share additional details that your resume may not include.

Who to Ask for a Referral

Getting a referral when you don’t know someone well can sometimes be tricky. But there are a variety of ways to be referred for a job. A connection at the company you’re applying for might inquire whether you’re interested in exploring new job opportunities. You may have an old connection on LinkedIn that you forgot about.

LinkedIn is a great tool to explore whether you know anyone at the company you are applying to. You can easily see if you know an existing connection or if one of your contacts knows someone at the company currently.

Once you choose someone to provide a referral, be sure to reach out to them before applying for the job. Ask if they are willing to give you a referral for the job. Even if you assume this person will build your credibility to the hiring manager, it’s important to check with them first. You don’t want to bombard someone at the last minute, and you certainly don’t want to tell the hiring manager that a person has vouched for you when they actually haven’t.

To do this, you can send them an email or a letter asking them for a referral. Similar to a reference letter, this will give the person you are asking a chance to look over the requirements and think about how they can best help you. This also gives them an opportunity to opt-out of a referral in case they don’t feel comfortable.

How to Mention a Referral in Your Cover Letter Effectively

There are a few circumstances where you should mention a referral in your cover letter, as well as some instances where you should not. Mentioning a referral in your cover letter is appropriate when you have directly contacted the person you’re planning to mention as your referral. This could be someone you contacted or someone that contacted you. It can even be someone who is not your contact on LinkedIn or other networks, but you’ve reached out to them, and they’ve agreed to be a referral.

However, in instances where you have not asked for explicit permission from the person you’re planning to use as your referral or this person is not in good standing with their employer, you should stay clear of mentioning them in your cover letter.

The purpose of the cover letter is to impress from the start. Mention your referral within the first paragraph of your note. To do this effectively, include the person’s name, job title, how you know them, and how they are familiar with your skills and qualifications. You can give the hiring manager a quick summary of why they are recommending you and how your past experience gives you the skills required to do the job well.

Try to keep your referral to one single paragraph in your cover letter. The rest of your letter should expand more on you and your skills, including how the things you have learned in previous work environments are transferable to your new role.

Examples of Using Referrals in Cover Letters

We’ve included some examples of how it may look to include a referral in your cover letter.

Dear Angela Morris,

I am writing to inquire about the Marketing Director position, which came highly recommended to me by Bill Jeffries, Vice President of Marketing at Apple, Inc. Bill and I worked closely together for several years at Nabisco, where we tackled a variety of event coordination and digital lead generation efforts. Bill believes my marketing experience and skill for developing memorable events can have a profound impact on the marketing team and organization as a whole.

Dear Larry Smith,

Bill Jeffries suggested I reach out to you regarding the Marketing Director position at Apple, Inc. I met Bill while coordinating a conference at the end of last year. We worked closely together with vendors, contracts, and design. He was able to see my ability to bring booths to life, develop innovative ideas to capture new leads, and the drive to continually improve marketing programs, which is why he’s referred me to this role on your team.

Final Thoughts

If you come into a company with the right type of referral and a person who can actively vouch for your work ethic, you’ll already place yourself ahead of the competition. Even if you have a vast network and land your dream job, continue to network. Ensure that you always depart work environments on good terms with colleagues and managers. You never know who you will cross paths with later in your career journey: the broader your network, the better chance you will have to name drop in the future.

Take the hassle out of your job search & get an offer faster
Chris Kolmar


Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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