You Should Really Consider This Before Giving a Friend a Referral

photo credit: Turkan Najar 

photo credit: Turkan Najar 

Referrals are a huge part of our society. We see them everywhere from Yelp to Facebook to LinkedIn, and however you look at them, they are incredibly important. When a trusted friend tells you about a business, you transfer that trust to the company, and similarly, when a trusted acquaintance refers you to a person, you then transfer your trust into the referral.

When you refer someone, you put your own name on the line

When you refer a friend, you’re not only putting them up for scrutiny, but you’re putting yourself up for it as well. If you refer someone that clearly isn’t a good fit for the company, it can suggest two main things:

  1. It suggests that you haven’t done any research on the company and what the company is looking for in an employee.
  2. It suggests that you really don’t know the person that well, so it weakens your referral.

Either option reflects badly on you. If you’re going to refer someone, it’s important to do your research so you feel truly confident that they could be a good fit for the company.

Similarly, you want to ensure that you believe in someone’s work ethic and quality of work prior to referring them to someone. It’s impossible to control other people’s actions, but the reality is that if someone doesn’t work out or someone makes a bad impression at work, you’re probably going to think about who referred them in the first place. This is part of the reason why that referral from a friend is such a big deal. They’re putting their own reputation on the line along with yours.

You truly don't know what someone is like at work until you actually work with them

People can be very different in and outside of the office, and ultimately you never truly know how someone acts at work until you’ve seen it first-hand. GlassDoor estimates that being referred by someone at the company boosts your chance of successfully landing a job as high as nearly 7%. This makes a big difference during the job search, but it can be tough for someone to refer you when they haven’t seen your work ethic.

"You don’t truly know what someone is like at work until you actually work with them."

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If you are asking a friend or acquaintance for a referral, make sure that you can show them that you’re worth it. Their name and reputation is on the line just as much as yours is, so do your best to highlight why you’re the right fit for the position. If you can show them what you’ve accomplished in your career and what you would like to accomplish at the company, that is ideal.

It can set you up for an awkward situation if things don’t work out

One of the hardest parts about referring someone or getting a referral from a friend is that it can make for some awkward conversations if things don’t go as planned. Going back to the fact that you don’t know how someone acts at work unless you’ve worked with them, you might be surprised to hear that a friend had a low work ethic or another less than ideal quality. It can also be hard to tell a friend that the person they referred made a bad impression. While this isn’t the end of the world, this is why asking for or giving a referral for a friend is such a big deal. 

Acknowledge the fact that if someone is giving you a referral, they are confident enough in you to risk their reputation or some potentially awkward conversations down the line. On the opposite end, it is important to acknowledge the risk and make sure you are confident in your choice when you are referring a friend.


Ultimately, referrals make a huge difference when looking for a job or looking for a candidate to hire, but they can be risky for the person who is giving the referral. If someone is willing to give you a referral, it means that they have confidence in you, so it’s important to do your best to uphold that. Referrals mean that both the referrer and the referral get judged, and this is what you need to consider before you ask for or give a friend a referral.

A native San Franciscan, Michele Lando is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and founder of She has a passion for helping others present the best version of themselves, both on paper and in person, and works to polish individuals' application package and personal style. Aiming to help create a perfect personal branding package, Write Styles presents tips to enhance your resume, style, and boost your confidence.