They say it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. By some accounts, namely noted historian and etymologist Barry Popik, the saying originated more than 100 years ago; its earliest known usage in print can be found in a 1914 issue of American union periodical The Electrical Worker:
“Many devious forces apparently also control the conditions of advancement and preference,” the article reads, “and a phrase that is often heard is to the effect that it’s not what you know that counts so much, as who you know.”
More than a century on, there is no way the author could envisage the “conditions of advancement” as they exist today.
Despite social media networking, and niche job boards aimed at helping candidates match themselves to the perfect job, recruiters, headhunters, consultants and more, still it can be difficult to get a foot in the door for that dream job.
The fact is, only around half of hires in tech come from traditional applications. What we can learn from this basic stat is that personal recommendations still play an important role in the hiring process.
This could be in the form of someone on the “inside” putting in a good word with hiring managers, or a previous employer, manager or colleague who has influence with a potential employer urging them to strongly consider candidate X over the rest of the panel.
If you’re keen to take this approach –– and why wouldn’t you –– here are some things to remember when it comes to requesting a personal recommendation to boost your prospects of landing your dream job:
Choose your advocate carefully
When considering who you might approach to make a recommendation, think about those people who know you well enough across your personal character, work ethic and potential. If they’re going to put their name to such a recommendation, they need to genuinely believe that you deserve it, and the last thing you want is for them to politely decline.
Make the request in a timely and formal manner
Crafting a letter of recommendation is something an individual will likely want to think carefully on. Additionally. they are likely to have a busy schedule of their own, so never leave it to the last minute. Neither should you approach them by text message or DM. Write to them in a professional and formal capacity. Even if you have a friendly rapport, this will convince them that you mean business.
Outline reasons why you’re the right fit
Always include reasons why you deserve their recommendation, and why you are the best candidate for the role. It would be a mistake to assume your chosen person will write you a letter of recommendation simply because they know you, or that they will immediately recall your best traits. This prompt will encourage them to concur, but also give them the language to support your application.
Don’t be offended if they decline
If they politely decline your request, always remain professional. They will have their own reasons for doing so. Perhaps they have a policy to decline all such requests, or there might be a conflict of interest with the company or they may even simply feel that they cannot support you in this way. No matter the reason, thank them for their time and identify an alternative referee.
Network, network, network
This is sound advice no matter your situation, but in the case of finding appropriate individuals to support a job application, you never know who might be the right person to provide you the support you need. Use social media and other tools to keep in touch with old colleagues and managers; engage with them and, if possible, provide similar encouragement and recommendations to others. Put out the energy that you hope to receive, and it may well be yours in time.
Recommendation or not, you should always feel confident about your prospects. Visit the nextpit Job Board to find your next perfect placement.
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Start your job search today via the nextpit Job Board. This article was written by Doug Whelan.