How to ask for referrals?

dogboo's picture
Rank: Gorilla | 535

I was wondering how do you go about asking for referrals from people you network with? Most of my connections i have reached out to cold and for the most part usually have a 20-40min phone call with them asking about their experience and advice at firm X.

I am starting to run out of leads to contact and was wondering how you go about asking them for referrals. I feel kind of awkward asking someone who I only have had a brief phone call or email exchange with to refer me to other bankers.

Also is it appropriate to do so through emails? After following up?

Thanks!

Comments (65)

Sep 26, 2012

You need to get them to offer to refer you. Make them enjoy their conversations and bring up the fact that you're looking at firm X for work and ask them about their time there. Later you can ask if they know anyone who might be willing to speak to you. If you develop the relationship well enough, they will probably offer to pass along your CV.

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Sep 26, 2012

^ This. If they enjoy the conversation they will usually end it by saying if they can help in any way just let them know.

Sep 26, 2012

Yeah i have gotten the "how can I help you?" A several times, but I usually just ask how i can make myself more competitive.

Sep 27, 2012

Are you asking for referrals to contacts at a different bank than your original connection? Or for more contacts within the same bank?

Sep 29, 2012

Dude, if you don't have enough of a personal relationship with the person that you know how to ask for a referral, they probably shouldn't be referring you.

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May 6, 2017

Exactly! They need to at a minimum know you as a good guy or culture fit at a minimum. Ideally, they should know something about your work ethic. Also, if you are giving them your resume give them a list of referrals that you have performed for. Employers, coworkers, professors and friend and family. The connection you developed can put you in the running and these people can validate.

Sep 29, 2012

Don't know what your relationship is with these alumni and you should take my advice with a grain of salt but this is how I would go about it:

"Hey X, it was great speaking to you about Y and Z. I'm actually pretty interested in [industry] and was wondering if you knew anybody I could speak to so I could learn more"

or

"I'm actually getting ready for summer recruiting and was wondering if you could point me in the direction of anybody in [industry] that would be able to help"

once again: personal opinion. you ultimately want to get to contacts that can help you come recruiting season, and I would hazard to say that now is the time to be asking for what you want. You want to be pushy, but not annoying. Hope that helps.

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Sep 29, 2012

Wow 70 informational interviews!? I'm using LinkedIn and can hardly even get one. Can you pass over your techniques over to me?

Sep 29, 2012
quantitativeman13:

Wow 70 informational interviews!? I'm using LinkedIn and can hardly even get one. Can you pass over your techniques over to me?

seriously? you're really doing it wrong. you should tell us your technique so we can critique etc. you can't tailor his to you, what if you are in a different location/school/background etc.? you need your own approach and like with EVERYTHING in this world, you get better with practice

If the glove don't fit, you must acquit!

Sep 29, 2012

Well sure no problem. I've been using LinkedIn with the following template:

"Dear Mr. XYZ,

I am a senior at the City University of New York studying
economics. When you have the time, I'd love to talk
with you over the phone about XYZ Company as I learn more about investment banking and would value the time given.

Regards,
ABC"

I'm not from an Ivy league school but I have a 3.6 GPA (so im not too much of a bookworm) and I've got one internship with a boutique investment bank and besides that I've been working at Apple retail for five years. It's tough because I've been applying on company websites for months (about 300+ applications) and haven't received a single interview. Any suggestions? Insight? Words to pick my head up from all this rejection?

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Best Response
Sep 29, 2012

quantitativeman, I'd be happy to help! Before we start I wanted to say that your approach now is really similar to my initial approach (which wasn't super effective for me either) so I suspect you can get a much greater response rate as well.

Here are seven things that can help you out immediately (if you want, feel free to post modifications to your template in this thread, or if privacy is important we can switch over to email/phone instead):
1. Add more about you in the email (i.e. put your GPA, activities you've been involved in, your job at Apple, etc.). This helps because the more they know about you the greater the chance that you and them may have chemistry.
2. Personalize the email to them so it sounds like you're writing to them specifically. Right now you could send that email to anyone but I've found if you can tailor things to them you'll get a much warmer response . I would talk about how you think they have an interesting background because of reason X and that you'd like to talk to them about their career path.
3. Recognize your own value; right now your email sounds like you're asking them to give you something (i.e. their time) but that's not it at all. People love doing this kind of stuff because these days it's tough to establish strong, connections with people and if you can offer that you've given something really valuable. Also all of these people have been in your shoes before and many want to give back, and you're giving them a chance to do that.
4. Think in large numbers; the reason I was able to do 30 informational interviews last week was because I sent out 150 new requests and 200 follow ups. Response rates will be low, expect it and plan accordingly.
5. Download YesWare - this is a gmail addon that allows you to track whether people open your email, reply, and tracks the overall number of email opens. It helped me diagnose problems in my approach (i.e. I realized initially very few people were opening my emails so I personalized the subject line). Also it allows you to set targets to beat on a week by week basis.
6. Propose a time in your email. You need to be aggressive with proposing times to make it easier for them. If you give them a specific time I guarantee they'll open up their calendar and check and will either say yes or propose a counteroffer. I didn't do this originally because I thought this was rude but I realize it's actually a really nice thing to do because I take on the burden of scheduling as opposed to them (otherwise you're making them do the work).
7. Contact them at their work email. I've never used the LinkedIn InMail function to be honest. I usually aim for their work email because they're more likely to check it. Plus, if someone has never been contacted this way before they tend to be pretty intrigued/impressed.
Anyway, feel free to modify your template and post here, post further questions, or if you want to talk further by email/phone let me know. This is actually really helpful for me because I'm starting to see the holes in my approach and how I can improve as well.

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Sep 29, 2012

Also, I wanted to help you reframe your situation. Although you have been applying for months I honestly don't think you are being rejected at all (though I know it feels that way).
Your application for all those jobs was probably simply never viewed in the first place because of the way recruiters use resume databases (i.e. they will only do keyword searches).
I look at this process as a way to learn about the sort of careers that are out there and what would be the best fit for me for the long term. Plus, it's help me clarify my long term goals and I've met a ton of people who I think are amazing and I'll probably keep in touch with even after this is all over. This is exciting stuff man!

Sep 29, 2012

You cannot just ask directly. I would suggest try and think over the conversation before starting it. Referrals are a big thing. You do not want to scare the other person. Try to pick up the topic they are interested in and sort of deviate it towards you so that you can ask for a referral.

In Time I wander

Sep 29, 2012

if you can copy paste your message to multiple people you're doing it wrong. tailor it to your audience with in this case is a single person so it better be tailored a lot. your message shows that you did nothing but see what company they work for, lazy as fuck. see if they moved around, are in similar groups, hobbies, clubs in college, etc. put some damn effort in basically.

If the glove don't fit, you must acquit!

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Sep 29, 2012

How do you find their emails through LinkedIn? Most of the time it's not listed

Sep 29, 2012

JYFresh, if you know someone's name and the company they work for you can predict their email based on the general email template for their company.
Here are three ways to figure out the email template of a company:
1. The WSO Company Database has email formats for many companies and there are some websites online that have them as well.
2. If the company publishes articles or white papers the authors generally have their work emails at the end so you can figure out the template from there.
3. You could experiment with different templates until your email goes through.

Sep 29, 2012
WalMartShopper:

if you can copy paste your message to multiple people you're doing it wrong. tailor it to your audience with in this case is a single person so it better be tailored a lot. your message shows that you did nothing but see what company they work for, lazy as fuck. see if they moved around, are in similar groups, hobbies, clubs in college, etc. put some damn effort in basically.

Amen.

Sep 29, 2012

The hard part is when you don't have a 1st/2nd degree connection to the person on LinkedIn and can't see their last name because of it. I pay for the basic LinkedIn plan, but I don't know if I could justify the top plan (which is something like ~$80/month) so that I can see anyone's last name.

Sep 29, 2012

If you have actually had 70 informational interviews but can't get a job, you have a severe issue. Based off your "categories" you are doing it wrong as well.

The fact they don't know you are calling initially for a job is your first problem. Be up front and honest, people are not stupid and can read what you want without even reading your first email.

Every single cold email i ever sent was replied too and 80% helped me out, I went to a total non-target and have a sub 3.0 GPA.

The reason they say good luck and don't offer their help is because they don't care, if you want help, ask. Grow a pair, every single time I attached my resume and stated i'm interested in XYZ. They would either talk with me and get me referred for a position, or say they couldn't help. Simple as that.

edit: You also overanalyze every goddamn person... just because they are willing to help you does not mean they have something good going on in their life. These posts are beyond ridiculous.

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Sep 29, 2012

Yes, one of the main goals of talking with alumni is that they'll connect you with someone else they know.

A good way to phrase asking for a referral: "Thanks for your help. Do you know of anyone else who might be willing to talk with me?"

Sep 29, 2012

Go ahead and meet with your connection, catch up, and get on good terms. Send him an e-mail saying thank you, and describe your interest in the investing side. Ask him if he could put you in touch with anyone he knows at the firm that is in a position that aligns with your interests. When did networking get so complicated? Just be yourself and be honest with people, and they'll return the favor.

Sep 29, 2012

Better yet, ask him about his job and what he does there etc - and then when you're in touch again, ask if he can refer you to someone so you can learn about the investing side too. Much better than saying "yo long time introduce me to someone else please"

Sep 29, 2012

Thanks for the advice. My concern was that a senior person would not want to make time for someone so junior, but there's no harm in trying.

Sep 29, 2012

I don't know why people beat around the bush so much when both sides know it's bullshit. Ask him to meet up so that you can discuss the industry and see if he knows anyone else for you to talk to. Most people appreciate it when you sack up and talk to them straight.

Sep 29, 2012

Instead of asking for a referral, shoot him a note thanking him for taking time to speak with you, tell you really enjoyed it, and that you want to reiterate your interest in perspective opportunities at the firm. If he thinks you're up to par then he'll get the hint and refer you.

Sep 29, 2012

"Dear Mr.____

It was great talking to you the last day. [or any other kind of interaction you had with him/her] I am interested in working in the investment banking industry and looking to gain an insider perspective of the industry. I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction to anybody in the investment banking industry so I could learn more.

Looking forward to hear from you.

Best regards,
Monkey"

"I do not think that there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature."

Sep 29, 2012

Hi thanks a lot!! Took a year for someone to answer but thanks a bunch!

Sep 29, 2012

I'd be careful how you go about it--it's a tough job market and I doubt he'd appreciate you exploiting his contacts after one meeting.

Sep 29, 2012

Just be suave dude. Get in touch with him and ask for advice about the position etc. If he has the mind/desire to help you out, then proceed to ask him if he could refer you. Don't make it a one dimensional relationship, ask him if he'd be up to grab drinks/chat about things. If anything, try to ask for advice and learn more about his personal experiences.

Get in touch, refer to last time you spoke with him, and take it from there.

GL

Sep 29, 2012

Unless this is a good friend of yours, I would recommend only using him as a resource for S&T positions or for only the IB positions (i.e., not both).

Sep 29, 2012

His reply gave you an option as to how you wanted to be helped, so take it. Do ask him to refer you to his head of DCM, or another senior decision maker on that team. All the best

Sep 29, 2012

don't use the word referral, just say "do you happen to know anyone from the DCM team that I could talk to"....ideally, he would email the person for you and copy you on it.

Sep 29, 2012

Thanks!

Sep 29, 2012

I have been in a similar situation. I have e-mailed a few contacts in the past and often a few weeks pass by before I received a response. Sometimes further follow ups were answered quick promptly, leaving me to conclude that they simply waited until they had some free time to respond.

Two weeks seems like a long enough period to wait. How well do you know/get along with this contact - that would determine whether I would follow up again or just drop it.

Sep 29, 2012
lever up:

I have been in a similar situation. I have e-mailed a few contacts in the past and often a few weeks pass by before I received a response. Sometimes further follow ups were answered quick promptly, leaving me to conclude that they simply waited until they had some free time to respond.

Two weeks seems like a long enough period to wait. How well do you know/get along with this contact - that would determine whether I would follow up again or just drop it.

Na, I dont know this contact that well. Like we talked for the first time 2 weeks back, and then i sent him the email next day thanking him, and asking him if he suggested anyone else i talk to, whose as helpful as he was, so tht i could continue gaining perespective into the company. he never got back for some reason, and the convo i guess went well--the one that i had with him over the phone. dont know what to do now.

Array

Sep 29, 2012

Thats a good question. I'm actually in a similar position except I'm at a non-target school and would like to know as well.

Sep 29, 2012

Grow a pair, be direct and make the ask. Was that so hard to figure out?

Sep 29, 2012

Ask if you want, but consider it from their perspective:
- They don't know you, beyond a few conversations and that you went to the same school
- They risk burning their internal credibility if they refer you to someone else and you turn out to be a dud

Rationally, what would you do if you were in their position?

Sep 29, 2012

Ask them to send their resume so you can gauge their worth before vouching?

Sep 29, 2012

Be blunt. From the conversations I've had with my alumni most of them get the hint once I say "I'm really interested in this firm from speaking with you, what should I do for recruiting at your firm" or something along those lines. They just tell me to send them my resume in the next week or so.

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Sep 29, 2012

"How can I best position myself to secure an interview with your firm?"

"I do not think that there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature."

Sep 29, 2012

I'm struggling with this as well. I think the main thing is not to waste time. What I do now is just tell them in my initial email what I've done and that I want them to submit my resume.
Less people respond but the ones who do are on board. Then you get them to do it immediately. Sometimes you don't even have to talk to them first. It's just a numbers game - some fraction of people will be impressed by what you've done and some fraction of those people will help further. Hope it helps!

Sep 29, 2012

i was direct (BAML related) and I got reemed out. Some people just dont have the camraderie. However I must also say that we hadn't spoke yet, only emailed (our call was actually scheduled to take place next monday) and the job posting was closing 5 days earlier so I figured I'd ask.

It's really a crap-shoot though, all depends on the person and I guess if he feels any sort of allegiance. PM me and I can tell you some of what he said.

May 6, 2017

If you are socially active then it is easy for you to ask from your social networks to suggest you best referrals according to your need or requirements. In general, you can directly connect with any of referral website or platform and where you can create your profile any easily ask for referrals.

May 6, 2017

See if you can meet up with him at the office, see if he can introduce you to some people in that department (in person) and ask if you can get a referral then.

May 6, 2017

One of my biggest pet peeves for students networking is when they do this automatically as if it's a standard way to end a conversation.

Here's where I think it's okay/good to ask for referral:
1) We had a really great conversation: free-flowing, started talking about non-work stuff, lengthy, etc. and it's pretty clear that I like you as a person (in which case I will usually ask if there's any way can help you through the process)
2) Already had a connection from multiple calls/meetings during networking, knew me while I was in school, or was referred to me by someone else I'm close with
3) Asked multiple questions that I couldn't answer and would be better suited for someone in a different group/background

Just please don't be one of those people who hops of the phone, asks like 3 generic questions with no follow-up and after 15 minutes says, "okay that's all I had, is there anyone else I should talk to?" And all I can think is "no, it's probably best that you don't talk to anyone else at this firm" or "I will refer this person to a co-worker who annoyed me recently." This isn't a scavenger hunt where you can just check off professionals one by one.

May 6, 2017
May 6, 2017
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