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How to Successfully Make a Referral

Give careful consideration when referring contacts for a position with your employer.

August 16, 2007
from Robert Half Finance & Accounting

Without a doubt, it’s still true that good employees are hard to find. Eighty-one percent of hiring managers surveyed by Robert Half International and CareerBuilder.com said today’s employment market is equally or more challenging than it was only one year ago. And more than 50 percent consider a shortage of skilled workers to be their biggest recruitment hurdle.

In a tightening hiring environment for accounting professionals, it’s no wonder that companies often turn to their teams for leads on potential job candidates. Often, firms provide incentives to staff who refer new people. It’s important, however, not to allow the prospects of such perks to cloud your judgment. What might mean a quick bonus in the near future could hurt you in the long term if you are not careful about the person you recommend.

In short, anyone you refer will be a reflection of your professional judgment. Consider several things before passing along someone’s name to your company.

  • Be upfront. Whether you’re referring a distant contact or a close relative, the same rule applies: Brief your supervisor or the other manager attempting to fill the opening on your association, and tell as much as possible about what you know about the individual’s work habits. If it’s a distant contact, be honest and say that while you may have heard he or she is a good candidate, you don’t know firsthand.

  • Don’t succumb to pressure. Let’s face it — some people are very persistent. If you don’t think someone is appropriate for the job, but they keep calling you, don’t give in. This can be difficult to do, especially if the person is a friend or a family member. If the individual is a close friend and there is a specific concern — for example, if the person has a bad track record at other firms — be honest and tell him or her why you can’t offer a referral. If it’s a friend of a friend whom you have heard negative things about, simply state you don’t think he or she would fit into the office environment.

  • Don’t let someone’s qualifications threaten you. If you know someone who is competent, assured and has a stellar reputation in your field, by all means refer him or her to your boss. But what if this person has similar experience and education to your own? Won’t the two of you end up competing with each other for the next promotion? Such self-protective concerns are only natural, but don’t let them stop you from referring skilled individuals. Remember that success in your company will hold a mirror to you and make you look good.

  • Expand your referral base beyond family and close friends. At professional gatherings and meetings, make it a habit to collect business cards. Take a moment to write your impression of the person on the back of the card. Not only is this a good way to find a potential colleague, it’s a great way to expand your network.

  • Inform the potential candidate about the job. Provide a written copy of the job description, if you have one, and also mention the unwritten duties that most positions include. Describe the corporate culture, specific perks such as flexible scheduling options and how employees are evaluated. Review the person’s résumé, and offer advice on how to highlight skills the role requires.

  • Will this person be a good fit? Consider your office environment and try to imagine this individual working there. Are there any potential issues, or will he or she adapt well?

  • Promote the candidate internally. If you feel strongly that someone will be a productive addition to the company, speak up. Help people’s chances by personally handing a copy of his or her resume to the hiring manager, and use the opportunity to put in a good word.

Remember that your reputation is on the line when you refer someone to fill a role in your company. You don’t want to waste the time of either party, or risk damaging your career prospects, by recommending a candidate who may not work out well in the long run.

Founded in 1948, Robert Half Finance & Accounting, a division of Robert Half International, is one of the world’s first and largest companies specializing in financial recruitment service. The company has more than 350 locations throughout North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, and offers online job search services at www.roberthalf.com.