How to get referred to your dream job

In this career playbook, you will learn how to find and connect with the right contacts, set up interviews, and get a referral to your dream job.

Module 1

Application Materials: Update resume & LinkedIn

First, let's get your resume and LinkedIn profile up-to-date. A strong resume encourages new contacts to meet and refer you to roles in their company. Similarly, a good LinkedIn profile creates a strong first impression with people you connect with for the first time.

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1. Update your Resume

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Your resume is not only an important tool when applying for jobs online, but it's also a critical part of the networking process. A strong resume encourages hiring managers to hire you and current employees to recommend or refer you for positions.

In this module, you'll learn how to optimize and tailor your resume, using the Resume Worded toolkit. If you don't have a resume, that's fine - we'll show you how to write one.

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1a. No resume? Start with a template.

File bundle

If you don't have a resume yet, or haven't updated your resume in a while, use a resume template like the one linked below.

Please use a 'simple' resume template and avoid graphics, tables, uncommon fonts and other special formatting. Companies use automated software (e.g. ATS) to process your resume and 'creative' resumes are not processed correctly.

Hiring managers also prefer simple templates since it's much easier for them to interpret and find information they are looking for. An overly creative template is often a sign of unprofessionalism.

Download free template
Explore more templates
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1b. Optimize your resume's impact

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Your resume should be a concise summary of your achievements. Each bullet point should contribute to the employer's wanting to hire you.

We'd recommend uploading your resume to our resume review platform, Score My Resume, for instant feedback. You'll get an analysis of your resume's impact, as well as a detailed assessment of each bullet point.

Upload your resume
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1c. Target your resume to the job or industry

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You should tailor your resume to each job you apply to. This doesn't mean you change your resume completely - instead, you should highlight specific skills that the employer wants.

To make this easy for you, use our free tool, Targeted Resume. Upload your job posting and resume and we'll instantly tell you what skills or keywords your resume is missing. If you don't have a specific job in mind, use a job posting from similar roles.

Start targeting
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2. Update your LinkedIn profile

95% of all recruiters and hiring managers use LinkedIn to find candidates. LinkedIn is more important than ever in building your personal brand and career. An optimized LinkedIn profile helps you in two key ways.

First impressions: In this playbook, you're going to reach out to new contacts on LinkedIn. The better your profile, the higher the chance a new contact will respond to you. When we tested this, we found that well-optimized profiles received a 28% higher response rate than weaker profiles.

Inbound: The better your LinkedIn profile, the more easily recruiters will find you. This means more opportunities that come directly to you.

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2a. Optimize your LinkedIn profile

Using keywords will increase your profile's ranking in search results

Most people don't take advantage of LinkedIn. Most profiles on LinkedIn are vague and aren't optimized for what they're looking for. This makes your profile harder to find and results in you missing out on opportunities.

An optimized LinkedIn profile will help drive more views to your LinkedIn profile. This results in more recruiters and hiring managers finding your profile and contacting you for opportunities.

The easiest way to optimize your LinkedIn profile is to add in keywords to LinkedIn profile's headline, summary and work experience sections. Use keywords that are relevant to the job you're applying to or industry you want to join.

We strongly recommend using our free LinkedIn Review tool. In just 10 seconds, our AI-powered tool will give you feedback on how to improve your profile's discoverability.

Get a free LinkedIn profile review, instantly
Module 2

Networking: Reach out to potential contacts

In this module, we'll explain our strategy to find people who are willing to refer you internally to their company. Most people will only refer you if they feel you're a good fit and trust you. You need to demonstrate both these qualities.

We'll describe a system for identifying potential referrers. It is a two-pronged approach of leveraging our existing network and reaching out to new contacts. Repeat the steps below until you have set up at least a few calls or coffee dates with potential referrers.

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1. Contact people you already know on LinkedIn

You might already know people who are employed at companies you want to work at. We'll reach out to these people first - since they already know you, you don't have to invest as much time into building a relationship from scratch.

This module will show you how to find and contact these people. Unless you know them very well, don't just ask for a job directly - people hate that! Instead, set up time with them to learn more about their role and company.

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1a. Find your 1st degree connections

Let's use LinkedIn to find people you already know or are connected to. Click the link below to open LinkedIn's Advanced Search. Then, filter the list by clicking on 'Current companies' and typing in companies you might want to apply to.

Take note of the profiles that are a good fit - it might be useful to bucket the contacts you find into two categories: People you know well and people who you somewhat know. We'll reach out to these two groups with different messages.

Open LinkedIn
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1b. Send emails or LinkedIn messages (+ samples)

Contacts you know may include friends or people you have previously worked with. You can either send them an email or message them on LinkedIn directly.

Of course, if you already have a very good relationship with them, you can just ask to be referred for an open position. At large companies, there are employee referral programs which make things extremely easy for current employees to refer candidates.

For most people, though, asking for a referral off the bat can seem pushy. Instead, we should build our relationship. A good way to do this is to ask for advice - this can be advice asking if you're a good fit for a few roles, or even advice on your resume. See this example:

Show Email Template
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1c. Follow up if you don't receive a response

It's normal to not get a response with your first email. They might be busy, on holiday or just missed your email.

You can send a polite short follow up like this template 4-7 days later. Reply to your original email so the recipient can easily see your previous email.

Show Email Template

If you don't get a response to the follow up email, be respectful and do not follow up again.

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2. Get introduced by your mutual contacts

Chances are that you have friends - or friends of friends - who already work at your dream companies. It's just hard to keep track of everyone you've met. I can assure you, your network is bigger than you think.

In this section, we'll use LinkedIn to find contacts outside of our immediate network that we have mutual connections with. We'll then ask our mutual connections for a 'warm' introduction to those contacts.

Introductions are an extremely effective way of building your network quickly.

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2a. Find your 2nd degree connections

LinkedIn makes it easy to find people that are outside your immediate network. LinkedIn refers to these people as your '2nd degree connections'.

Click the link below to open LinkedIn's Advanced Search for second degree connections. We've pre-selected some filters (Keywords, Location and Current Companies) - change these to fit what you're looking for.

Open LinkedIn
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2b. Ask for an introduction

Be polite and respectful when asking for introductions. Remember that just because your contact is connected to someone on LinkedIn, they don't necessarily know them well enough to be comfortable with making an introduction. You want to be using this only with warm contacts, ex-colleagues or friends who know you reasonably well!

Be considerate and offer a pre-formatted template in your follow up email (provided they say yes).

Here are two great email and LinkedIn templates you can use when asking for an introduction.

Show Email Template #1  Show Email Template #2
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3. How to reach out to new contacts

In this module, we'll show you how to contact people you don't have a relationship with. This is often referred to as cold outreach. You will find this especially helpful if you're changing careers and need to grow your network in a new industry. If you have enough contacts from the previous steps, you can skip this section.

When reaching out to people for the first time, you obviously don't want to be asking for favours or job referrals right off the bat. Instead, genuinely build a relationship by asking for advice and feedback. People want to help you - they just don't want to be used for favours.

Cold emailing can be an effective way of growing your network. But don't expect a 100% success rate. People are busy and often will ignore requests from complete strangers. Don't worry though - we'll show you how to find contacts that are more likely to respond to you.

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3a. Find people to contact

To improve your success rate, it's important to choose contacts that you have something in common with. Your alumni is often a good place to start - people who go to the same school share a strong bond. You can also reach out to people who worked at your previous companies or are part of the same LinkedIn groups as you.

While it might be tempting to contact VIPs such as CEOs of companies, your response rates are going to be pretty low. Instead, focus your efforts on finding contacts who are close to your hiring teams. The most ideal contacts are current employees in the team you want to join or people doing similar roles. For example, if you want to be a Software Engineer at Google, try to contact a current engineer at Google, and not someone in Finance. Contacting recruiters can be a good bet, regardless of role.

You can find these people in three ways: via LinkedIn Advanced Search, a Google search trick, and your alumni database (check with your university). On LinkedIn, go to the link below and customize the filters. Click on 'Keywords' and then change the job title from Designer to the job title you are looking for.

Open LinkedIn


Alternatively, you can use this cool Google search trick! Click the button below to see how we search Google for LinkedIn profiles. Customize the search fields to what you are looking for (i.e. add your own city name, job title, company and university).

Open Google Search


At the end of this step, you should have a list of people you want to reach out to. Connect with them on LinkedIn and remember to include a personalized note! A compliment usually helps.

Alternatively, use a tool like Hunter.io to find their email address if you prefer email.

Once you are connected with them or have their email address, go to the next section to see exactly what to email/message them.

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3b. Send emails or LinkedIn messages (+ samples)

At this point, you should have a list of contacts you want to set up meetings with. They could be alumni from your university, people you have been introduced to, or just profiles you came across during your research.

The next step is to set up phone calls or coffee dates with each contact. The goal of these meetings is to learn as much as possible about them and the company. This will help you make a more informed decision on if this company is right for you. Since these are all contacts you will be meeting for the first time, be respectful and do not ask for a big favour (e.g. a job referral).

Here are some email templates you can refer to as inspiration. Note how the focus of each email is on their advice and insight.

Show Email Template #1   Show Email Template #2   Show Email Template #3   Show Email Template #4   Show Email Template #5
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3c. Follow up if you don't receive a response

It's normal to not get a response with your first email. They might be busy, on holiday or just missed your email.

You can send a polite short follow up like this template 4-7 days later. Reply to your original email so the recipient can easily see your previous email.

Show Email Template   Show Email Template

If you don't get a response to the follow up email, be respectful and do not follow up again.

Module 3

Informational Interviews: Get advice, grow your network and get referrals

At this point, you have set up a few calls or face-to-face meetings with people who work at companies you might like to work at. These meetings are often referred to as 'informational interviews'. This is your opportunity to ask questions, get advice and build your relationship.

Do not ask for a job or a referral directly. Instead, ask your contacts about their company and get a sense of if it's the right role for you. Take notes - these learnings will also help you stand out at the interview stage.

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1. Prepare for the informational interview

You want to make a great first impression, so do your research before you meet your contacts. Learn everything you can about this person and the company they work for. Try to find out about the industry they're in and the kind of work they do. The more you know, the more genuinely interested you will come across.

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1a. Prepare questions to ask

Then, come up with some questions that you are genuinely interested in. Learn more about what they do and why it's important. Here are some sample questions and topics that work well during informational interviews:
- Company culture: Ask where they started their career. If they started somewhere different to their current company, find out what attracted them to the company.
- Application process: Find out what the typical hiring process looks like.
- Advice: Can I tell you a bit about my background and experiences, and see if you have any suggestions for things I might do to strengthen myself as a candidate?
- Am I a good fit?: I currently work as a [job title]. How easy or difficult do you think it might be to make a transition from that career to your career? Do you know anyone who has made a similar transition? How did they find it?

Again, don't ask for an unsolicited referral (unless they bring it up).

In addition to questions, you should practice a 2-minute elevator pitch about your story. Bring your resume with you, but don't bring it out unless it's the right time.

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2. During the interview

During the informational interview, ask your questions and listen carefully. They should be doing most of the talking. Take notes if you need to.

Everything you learn during the session will help you make a more informed decision on if this is the right career for you. We've consulted thousands of job seekers and it is not surprising for them to change their minds about the role they want after the informational interview. It's that useful.

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2a. How do I ask for a referral? You don't.

You are probably wondering how this leads to a job referral. It just so happens that if you do enough of these, the person might mention, "I could refer you to the role". When that happens, be thankful and ask if they are comfortable with that. Say something along the lines of, "That would actually be really helpful and would speed the process too, thank you. Are you sure that be okay?". When they say 'yes', you've got yourself a referral. Congratulations!

Don't ask for a job referral directly, unless they bring it up. You could ask about the application process, e.g. "Assuming I apply for the role, what would the application and interview process look like?", to point the conversation into that direction - though, leave it at that (unless they mention a referral themselves).

If they don't mention a referral, that's fine too! Remember that there are many reasons why they aren't able to refer you. For example, they might not be hiring at the moment.

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2b. Ask for introductions to new people

Some of these conversations will end with a referral, but some of them won't. For those that don't - at the end of the conversation - ask if there is anyone else they could connect you to. For example, say something like, "I'd really like to learn more about [a specific topic or the industry you spoke about] - do you know anyone else that would be a good person for me to talk to?"

If they can't think of anyone to introduce you to, ask if they know anyone at another company, or someone doing a different role (e.g. a recruiter works too!). You want to get at least one new contact from each meeting or coffee date. Keep doing this and soon enough, you'll have a network of relevant contacts across an industry, many of which will be able to refer you to their companies.

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3. Follow up after the interview

When you get the opportunity to meet someone you've reached out to, it's important that you send them a quick thank you to let them know that the session was not only valuable, but that you are actually taking action on their advice.

Here are three examples of thank you notes you can send:

Show Email Template #1  Show Email Template #2  Show Email Template #3
Well done!

You've made it to the end of the playbook. If you have followed every step, you've not only gotten yourself a referral, but you also have a network of people in the industry you want to work in. A network like this will not just pay dividends right now, but also for the rest of your career.

If you found this playbook useful, we'd really appreciate you sharing this guide with your network. Not only would it also benefit them, but it also enables us to reach more people and as a result, maintain this guide and invest into creating new free material.