How to highlight a referral on a job cover letter?
December 6, 2006 9:14 AM   Subscribe

I am applying for a job at a place where I have a professional contact who has okay'd me to use him as a reference. However, since references are at the end of a resume, I want to ensure that this fact is highlighted to the HR department (the person is very high up in the company). ...

I thought it would be a good idea to highlight his referral on my cover letter but I have no idea how to do it without lying. Ie, I thought that I could mention that the man told me about the job, but he didn't. I thought I'd ask him if it was okay to say this, but don't want to apply to a job by asking a higher up there if he'll cover my lie. I also don't want to be a pest as him offering to a reference is extremely generous considering I haven't seen him in almost a decade.

I have applied to this company multiple times in the past (without the reference) and have never gotten a phone call. I don't want them to say, "Oh, him again!" and immediately dump the resume.

What should I do? Any suggestions for how to word a letter to highlight his referral?
posted by Manhasset to Work & Money (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
referral reference.
posted by Manhasset at 9:17 AM on December 6, 2006

Can't you just refer to your references in your letter?

e.g. "My references (John Smith, Jane Doe, and Ziggy Stardust) will tell you that..." or maybe briefly indicate what area of your experience each one will be especially able to address.
posted by winston at 9:19 AM on December 6, 2006

Just name and title the references at the bottom of the resume. They will be sure to see it. As a follow-on, be sure to contact that referee, as they might get a call about it from HR before they contact you.
posted by parmanparman at 9:22 AM on December 6, 2006

Is it possible for your contact to personally deliver your resume to HR? Or to perhaps send an email to HR mentioning that they should keep an eye out for your resume? Basically something that will make it clear that this person takes a personal interest in shepherding your resume along so that it receives proper attention. I understand that you don't want to be a pest, but I don't think that asking him to pass along your resume with a good word is too much to ask. And yes, definitely do not ask him to lie for you.
posted by amro at 9:23 AM on December 6, 2006

Insert something like this into the first paragraph of your cover letter.

"...I asked Reference Man about this position and he stated that I would be a good fit and encouraged me to apply..."
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:35 AM on December 6, 2006

I have discussed this position with Mr. Reference of the Head Honcho department, and...
posted by textilephile at 9:37 AM on December 6, 2006

(By the way I apologize for not answering the question you asked, but I've been told that (at least in my field) cover letters are largely disregarded, so I thought perhaps my suggestions were a possibility you hadn't considered.)
posted by amro at 9:39 AM on December 6, 2006

Just write it into the cover letter in its own paragraph. You highlight other things in there like specific experience and work history, so highlight your references as well. They can be just as valid and important.

"Please also make note that one of my references is Mr X, the head of Dept X, who will attest to blah blah blah."

Be honest, but definitely point it out
posted by poppo at 9:39 AM on December 6, 2006

I agree with the advice above to name your references prominently in the cover letter - further advice is to CC Mr Head Honcho on the letter as well. This will
a) remind him of your use of his name,
b) put his name prominently on the letter again (or email, whichever method of delivery you choose) and
c) if you're doing it via email - enable him to reply to all (at your prompting, if you have that sort of relationship with him).

In any case, copying him gives him a sort of standing in the recruitment process in your case.
posted by Sk4n at 9:51 AM on December 6, 2006

Can you forward your CV to him and have him forward it to HR? That's how it worked in my old company.
posted by k8t at 10:11 AM on December 6, 2006

Call your reference and ask him who the hiring manager is for the position for which you are applying. Address your application to that manager, mentioning the reference in your cover letter/email. If possible, have your reference give a copy of your cover letter and resume to the hiring manager directly.

It has been my experience in my professional career that HR doesn't make the hiring decisions, they just handle the paperwork once the hiring manager makes his selection. YMMV.
posted by Fat Guy at 10:21 AM on December 6, 2006

Why don't you just call him, and ask about the job? Then you can make the second line of your cover letter something along the lines of "I was referred to this position by Mr So-and-So of SuchAndSuch Department."

Also, seriously, your contact knows that most jobs are gotten through referrals and contacts, he won't be offended or perturbed if you stretch the definition of 'referred'.
posted by Kololo at 10:42 AM on December 6, 2006

amro and fat guy are right. if it goes in the "HR pile" with everyone off the street who applies, there's a good chance it won't even get looked at.

Referrals are only really effective when the person goes to bat for you personally.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:06 AM on December 6, 2006

Can your contact not submit your resume for you? That'd be the best way, IMO.
posted by suchatreat at 11:35 AM on December 6, 2006

Thanks, everyone!
posted by Manhasset at 12:16 PM on December 6, 2006

Could you ask him to mention you? That is the best way to get a job - a lot of people where I work got hired because someone suggested them.
posted by jesirose at 6:09 PM on December 6, 2006

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