You know that friend or acquaintance who can’t seem to get a sentence out without mentioning some Instagram-famous person he knows? Or the founder/CEO/owner of the current hot company? The incessant name-dropper doesn’t know when to call it quits.
Name dropping isn’t all bad though, especially when you’re on the hunt for a new job. In fact, it can actually be a deciding factor in helping you get an interview and then, if your skills and experience match up, an offer.
Much like having a solid connection at a company you’re dying to work for, doing this can give you an edge and set you apart from the rest—if you go about it the right way.
Jenny Foss, Muse Master Coach and columnist, has some smart advice for how you can navigate the murky situation when it comes to applying for a position that catches your eye.
If your connection is “lukewarm,” meaning the person doesn’t have a direct tie to the department you’re interested in and/or you’re not close pals, here’s what you do: “Strike up a conversation and, at the end, ask the person this question: ‘I noticed that you guys are looking for a new [name of position you want]. Do you know who I might contact to get a few more details about the job?’”
If you get a name, then you’re ready to do the drop. Foss advises that you reach out to the person your contact mentioned (fingers crossed it’s the hiring manager) and say the following:
“I was talking to [name of the lukewarm connection]. He said you may be able to provide me with a bit more information about the [position you want]—may I ask you a couple of quick questions?”
At this point, you’ve accomplished your goal, indicating that “you know someone on the inside of the company, which may be quite advantageous. And you’ve done so without blatantly (or dishonestly) suggesting that he’s endorsing you or referring you for the job,” concludes Foss.
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Because hiring managers field hundreds or even thousands of resumes , being contacted by a candidate who knows an employee on the inside can be the thing that makes you stand out. And, as Foss says “the nice part about this strategy is that it makes it look like your lukewarm contact is vouching for you.”
Just note that it’s important you don’t come across as ostentatious. Lynn Berger a NYC-based career coach, stresses the importance of “mutual interest.” If, for example, you’re applying to a job where your connection isn’t even lukewarm (say, you’ve never met the person, but you admire his or her work and follow his industry moves to a T), you can still bring him up, you just need to do so carefully. In an early conversation with a hiring manager, if there’s a way to mention the person in a way that would help you connect with the recruiter or the role you’re interested in, then go for it.
You might say something like this:
“I was recently at a lecture [be specific and say where you were] and had the opportunity to hear [name of person] speak, and it left such an impression on me.”
The key is to not simply rattle off a bunch of names unless there’s clear relevance. Making mention of one person at the company and stating your admiration is an appropriate way to name drop.
One final note: You obviously wouldn’t want to mention somebody who you’re not sure remembers meeting you (unless you specifically state that), or who might potentially be uncomfortable learning that you used him as leverage to get your foot in the door. When in doubt, reach out to the person first and ask if it’s OK if you mention his or her name. People generally appreciate a heads-up when it comes to these things.
Bottom line: Don’t be afraid to do it! Just be smart about your approach. Oh, and make sure it’s not the only thing you’ve got going for you (i.e., you need to be qualified for the job).
Photo of woman at work courtesy of Shutterstock .
How to Mention a Referral in Your Cover Letter
A referral can help you stand out from the crowd when you are applying for a job. Hiring managers and recruiters are more likely to take a closer look at candidates with whom they share a mutual contact, and for good reason: studies have shown that hiring through employee referral is faster, cheaper, and more effective than relying on job sites. Referral hires also tend to get up to speed more quickly, fit in better, and stay at the company longer.
A referral cover letter can make the difference in helping your application get noticed by prospective employers. It also gives the hiring manager some context for your work and provides additional information about you.
What Is a Referral Cover Letter?
A referral cover letter is used to mention a mutual connection when applying for a job. You might be referred by a colleague, a friend, an employee at the company you’re interested in, or even your college career office. Having a referral to mention in your cover letter helps the hiring manager relate your experience to the open position, and can provide some insight into how well you might fit in at the company.
Your cover letter is your opportunity to highlight your education, skills, and qualifications for the job. In addition to your referral, you will have the chance to mention a few specific examples of why you are the best candidate for the position, and give more detail than you can on your resume.
How to Get a Referral
The referral doesn't have to be a business connection. You can ask anyone you know at the company or who has a contact at the company if they would recommend you for a job.
Just be sure to check with the individual in advance and ask if they are willing to give you a referral. Even if you’re certain they’d vouch for you, giving a potential referral a heads-up ensures that they’ll be able to offer the best possible recommendation, given the job requirements.
You can send a letter or email asking for a referral, which will give the person the time and opportunity to think through what they can do for you, and how to proceed.
How to Mention a Referral in a Cover Letter
When you use a referral in your cover letter, you should mention it in the first paragraph. Include the individual by name and describe your connection with them as well. Give a brief account of how you know the person, in what context, and for how long you have been acquainted.
In addition, if the person recommended that you apply for this particular position, take the opportunity to mention why they are endorsing you. What qualities of yours made them think that you would be a good fit for the company?
My colleague Amy Smith recommended that I contact you directly about this position. Amy and I have worked closely in the industry for many years, and she thought that ABC Inc. would be a good fit for my style and experience in sales. She pointed out that as a successful, award-winning salesperson I would be an excellent addition to the sales team at ABC Inc.
Referral Cover Letter Tips
Name-dropping does not come easily to some people, especially if you're already struggling with how to write about your accomplishments and sell yourself to a hiring manager.
For this reason, it is often helpful to look at examples of cover letters. Be sure to tailor your letter to fit your personal and professional circumstances.
You should include a brief mention of the recommendation right away in the letter. This strategy puts the referral in the front of the reader's mind, giving them context for what follows.
This leaves you plenty of space to expand on your strengths and why you're the best candidate for the job. Your cover letter is your chance to make a strong first impression, since it is likely the first thing a hiring manager will see, possibly even before your resume. Take the opportunity to impress them with your contact and their recommendation, and then go on to show examples of your successes in the workplace to prove that you are the most qualified person for the job.
As with all your business correspondence, make sure that you proofread your cover letter for correct spelling and grammar, and check that the information matches on all the documents you submit.