You probably know that referrals are the best way to get jobs.
As someone who works with a lot of students going through the job search, I’ve collected more data points on what types of messages work well, and what messages don’t when you’re asking for a referral.
Let’s talk about the cold message–when you contact someone you don’t know who works at a company you’re interested in. This is the toughest message to send. You’re literally reaching out to a stranger who is probably busy and not expecting someone they don’t know to ask them for help on getting a job. Not only that, you also don’t want to come off as annoying.
But keep this in mind: Anyone who’s held a corporate job for more than a year, and especially for those in the tech industry, know that cold emails or LinkedIn messages with a request to “set up a phone call to learn more about [company x]” is normal. In fact, they’ve probably done it themselves.
However, cold messages can be annoying. To avoid irritating the person on the other side of your message, use the following templates when you’re cold contacting someone with the intention of asking for a referral.
Cold Message Template
My name is [Your name] and I saw this [name or role and insert link to the job posting] opening. I’m really interested in this role and all that is going on at [Company]. I read about [mention some positive news about the company from their blog or press article], it sounds like it’s an exciting time and there’s a lot going on! I’d love to chat with you more about [Company].
A little bit about me:
I’m currently a [your role at your company]. I’m responsible for [describe what you do].
Previously, I was a [role at previous company]. In my time there I [describe what you did]
I’ve attached my resume for detailed context.
Would you be for up for a phone call in the next couple of weeks? If so, I can send over a handful of time slots.
– Your name
This is a good cold message because it shows you’ve done research on the company, introduced yourself without overwhelming a stranger with your life story, and specified a request. As an added bonus, you’ve agreed to take on the hassle of coordinating times to chat.
The template is in email format, but you may not have someone’s email address for a cold message. If that’s the case, reach out with this message through LinkedIn. If you do, break up the template message into a few messages so you’re not sending a wall of text over LinkedIn.
If someone writes back to your cold message, they may or may not be willing to talk to you on the phone. If they’re open to a call, send over a handful of time slots to try to make it easy for them to find a time that works for them. Make sure you do some research to ask good questions about the role and company before you get on the phone. After the call, send a follow up email to thank them for the call and ask for a referral.
Here’s a good way to craft the sentence to directly ask for a referral:
If you have time and are willing, can you help submit my resume for the [role–include link to job post]?
If after the first cold message you get a response, but a phone call doesn’t work for them, they may reply back with, “What questions can I answer for you?” If this happens, send over a few, specific questions over email. Once you get a response to your questions, send a follow-up thank you email, and ask directly for a referral.
If you aren’t at a company right now, mention the productive things you are doing that are relevant to the role you’re going after. This could be an online course you’re taking, volunteer/consulting work, side project, etc.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask, You’re Only Holding Yourself Back
If you’re getting gun-shy about sending a cold email because you don’t want to come off as an intrusive nuisance, don’t be. It’s common practice, particularly for those working in tech.
I’ve always been surprised by how helpful people who I don’t even know have been in my career. It all started out with a cold message. So don’t be afraid to take the first step to reach out to someone–as long as you’re not annoying. You’re only getting in your own way of the job you want if you don’t ask.