How to Write a Cover Letter Based on a Referral

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"It's not what you know, it's who you know." We've all heard the old adage, but in the case of finding a job, networking -- and who you know -- really can make a difference in getting your foot in the door. An employer is taking a chance on any new hire -- it's expensive to train and develop new employees, and a mistake can prove costly -- so identifying someone recommended by someone trustworthy within the organization is an attractive option. If you are lucky enough to have a referral to a particular job, showcase that referral in your cover letter.

Obtain permission from your referral to use his name. Ask for specific inside information, such as details about the job and to whom to address the letter.

Include the referral's name upfront. Ideally, mention the referral in the first sentence -- at a minimum, the first paragraph -- of the letter. State that your referral told you about the position and encouraged you to apply.

Mention how you know the referral. For example, if the referral is a close friend of your parents, state: "As a longtime family friend, Jane Smith suggested I apply for your vacant position." If the referral is someone you met in passing, explain how you met her or why she referred you.

State the particular skills, abilities or qualifications you have that the referral thought would be a good fit for the position in a later paragraph. For example: "Knowing my work history and extensive experience with corporate accounts, Mr. Roberts felt I would be a great fit for the opening in account management."

Thank your referral for the opportunity, regardless of whether you get a response to your cover letter from the employer. Recognize that the referral has taken a chance on you, and don't do anythingmake to make her regret that decision -- otherwise, you may not be able to get a referral from her in the future.

Tips & Warnings

  • Your referral must actually know he is referring you and that you will be using his name in the letter. Don't surprise a referral by using his name without permission, as this could hurt -- more than help -- your job chances.

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