A QnA on referral myths


Referrals are scary cuz you need to put yourself out there. Applying online on a portal on the other hand, is easy. Right behind your computer screen is where your comfort zone is. Referrals push you out of it.

When you don’t try for referrals, when you don’t go out of your way to get a job, you are basically saying “I have good technical skills and companies should hire me solely based on that.”

Well that’s not true, is it? Technical skills are a part of the job, not the whole job. There’s communication, product, persuasion, team work and a whole bunch of other things that determine your success.

In this article, I will try to invalidate referral myths which prevent people from getting an internship / job.

If you think that referrals are a favor, or you’re ashamed of asking for one, this article is for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. I want to get the job on my own and not with referrals. It seems like a favor.

Unless your dad’s friend hires you in his company, referrals are not favors.

If I was referring you:

  • I would check your resume, GitHub and / or blog before deciding. I would even have a small chat with you. I wouldn’t refer you if I didn’t think you had the appropriate skills because I would be working with you in the future and I would want to work with smart people.
  • If I refer the right person and they get hired, I get paid for helping the company hire smart employees. Hence, I have incentive to find the right people and refer them.

If you get referred:

  • Most referrals won’t lead to an interview.
  • If you get an interview, it’ll be because they think you can do the job, not because you were referred.
  • You will go through the same interview process as a candidate who applied directly.
  • You will only be hired if you do well in your interviews.

2. So then why even bother with referrals?

When you apply for a job, there are different layers of approval that you go through before you get an interview or a call from the recruiter.

The first one is obviously ATS (Applicant Tracking System) that scans your resume and matches keywords with the job to determine if you are a fit.

The second might a recruiter screen.

The first two layers are a risk for you, even if you are a good fit but your resume was not parsed correctly or the recruiter did not understand one of your projects, you won’t get a chance. However, if a developer refers you for an opening on their team, and puts your resume directly on their manager’s desk, now you have a chance.

Now you’ll get a better assessment and maybe a shot with an interview.

3. But that sucks. Everyone’s resume should get an object assessment.

Managers cannot review thousands of resumes themselves. They need ways to narrow down the pile. ATS systems are one way. Referrals are another.

4. Okay I get it, but I am too ashamed to ask

For the reasons explained in point (1), the situation is a win win for both parties. The company gets a good candidate, the employee gets paid, and you get an interview. No shame in asking.

By the way, asking for things is the most underrated skill. If you never ask, you’ll never get it.

Finally, you need to learn how to have hard conversations whether it’s reaching out for RA (research assistantship), referrals or negotiating your salary.

Use this chance to practice, improve and get comfortable.

5. Makes sense, I will try and put myself out there. Referrals seem like a lot of work tho. Are you sure it’s worth it?

I always recommend applying directly and trying for referrals as well. Sometimes employees will take too long to get back to you. You don’t want to miss out on applying for the job. Use both your personal and school emails.

As for worth it, I got a lot of referrals, got 5 interviews out of them and cracked 4.

However, I know a lot of people who got interviews from direct applications.

Final thoughts

Job search is in iterative process. You keep working on your resume and skills over the course of applying with referrals. Sometimes they work immediately, sometimes they take time. And referrals are definitely not the only way.

The reason I like them so much is 5 referrals have a much better chance of getting you an interview than 100 direct applications.



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