How To Include a Referral in a Cover Letter (With Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated September 16, 2022

Published September 7, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When applying for a job, it can be helpful to receive a referral from an employee who works at the same company or an individual who knows the hiring manager. A referral can provide the hiring manager with information to exemplify why you are a great candidate for a role. If you have a referral for a job you are interested in, learning how to include it in a cover letter can improve your chances of getting invited to an interview. In this article, we discuss how to include a referral in a cover letter, describe what a job referral and a referral cover letter are, learn why they're important, outline tips to help you ask for a referral and provide examples to help you write your own.

Related: 7 Key Cover Letter Parts to Include in Your Letter

How to include a referral in a cover letter

Here are four steps to help you include a referral in your cover letter:

1. Introduce your reference contact

In the first sentence of your cover letter, introduce your reference using their full name. This is important so a hiring manager can confirm your relationship with them to establish credibility. Include additional information about the reference to explain how the hiring manager may know them.

2. Describe your connection to the reference

Your connection to the reference can help a hiring manager evaluate the positive impact you have on others and your ability to make meaningful connections. They can be a previous employer, professor or any individual who has experience working with you. An explanation can give a hiring manager additional context they need to identify the credibility of the referral.

3. Explain why they are referring you for the job

It is beneficial to include why a reference believes you are a good fit for the role you are applying to. It can help give a hiring manager insight into your strengths and skills in the workplace. You can also mention specific situations with the reference to highlight how your relationship and experiences with them can apply to the role.

4. Summarize your relevant experience with your reference

Your experience with the reference can provide information to reinforce your qualifications and ability to succeed in the workplace and various situations. It can also give a hiring manager a better understanding of who you are, your history, and your work ethic. A summary of your experience with a reference may assist a hiring manager with verifying your relevant experience and building trust in your reference's judgment.

Related: 11 Skills To Include in Your Cover Letter

What is a job referral?

A job referral is when a current employee of a company recommends or refers a potential employee to the company's hiring manager. Some companies may organize talent acquisition referral programs, asking current employees to recommend job candidates they believe are fit for the company. A job referral can be beneficial while applying for a role because it can reinforce the information on your resume and within your cover letter.

What is a referral cover letter?

A referral cover letter is a job application document that mentions a mutual contact you share with the hiring manager. This shared connection can be a friend, networking acquaintance, or employee at the company where you're applying for a job. When done properly, mentioning the name of a reference in a cover letter emphasizes how your experience aligns with the job and how you've worked effectively with others in the past.

Related: What Is the Purpose of a Cover Letter?

Why are referrals important?

Referrals are important because they exhibit professionalism and credibility while applying for open job positions. A candidate for a role may include a reference to attest to their qualifications and skills relevant to the role. A referral from an individual who is connected to the hiring manager can help reinforce the value you can bring to a company. Referrals can be a positive recommendation to testify to your excellent work ethic.

How to get a referral

Here are three steps you can take to get a referral for your next job application:

1. Determine potential references

Select a reference that can effectively illustrate your potential for success and outline your strengths. A referral can come from an individual with some form of relationship or connection to a hiring manager. This can include a professor, former employer, client, or current employee in their company. While reviewing the requirements to apply for a role, identify the hiring manager's preferences to help you choose a reference that can give you a competitive advantage in getting a job.

Related: How to Ask for a Job Referral (With Tips and Examples)

2. Ask your reference for permission

While creating your referral cover letter, ask your reference for permission to use their name. Permission can show you have respect for them, can help you gain their trust, and help implement confidentiality. This can help the individual giving the referral understand your intentions and allow them an opportunity to provide insight about the job and company. It also can help your reference prepare to speak on your behalf about your qualifications.

Related: Key Steps To Asking for a Reference

3. Send a copy of your cover letter

Send your reference a copy of your cover letter so they know what information they can validate or elaborate on during their discussion with the hiring manager. Send your cover letter to your reference prior to submitting it so they can approve the information you include. This may also give you an opportunity to receive feedback and strengthen your document.

Related: How Long Should a Cover Letter Be?

Tips for asking for a referral letter

Here are some tips to help you ask for a referral letter:

Provide your prospective reference with details about the job

While requesting a referral, provide details about the job you're applying for and the qualifications they're looking for in a suitable candidate. This can help your reference understand which skills of yours to highlight while speaking with the hiring manager. Your reference may also help you evaluate if you're applying for a role that aligns with your career goals and values.

Related: How to Write the Best Cover Letter (Template and Example)

Ensure your reference feels comfortable writing a recommendation

Being a reference involves taking a certain level of responsibility for the person they're providing the referral for. You are often a representation of the reference, so it's important for the person referring you to trust you to fulfill the qualities and responsibilities they list in the recommendation. Choose a person who's familiar with your abilities and skills and ask if they would be comfortable giving you their referral. Explain to them you would include their name in the referral cover letter.

Politely ask for a recommendation

A polite and formal referral request can increase the chances of an individual agreeing to refer you for a position. Prior to asking for a referral, consider engaging with them on a meaningful and personal level. Ask questions about their well-being and actively listen to their responses to show you value their words and time. While engaging in the conversation, consider mentioning the job you're applying for to direct the conversation towards asking for a referral.

Related: Key Steps to Asking for a Reference

Referral cover letter paragraph examples

Here are some examples of how you can include a referral in your cover letter:

Example 1

Here is an example of how to include a referral in a cover letter when you have worked with the reference:

Dear Sarah Manis,

The Social Media Specialist position came highly recommended to me by Julie Sim, Community Outreach Manager at Calgary Media. Julie and I worked together for several years while coordinating continued education events, and she believes my marketing experience and skills in engaging audiences can have a profound impact on the organization.

Related: Defining Employee Referral Programs (Plus Their Benefits)

Example 2

Here is another example of how to include a referral in a cover letter when your reference volunteered with you:

Dear Joseph Carpenter,

Justine Kelly suggested I contact you regarding the Customer Service Representative position at PineMart. I met Justine last year when we volunteered together at a local mobile food bank. Working closely together allowed her to see my ability to genuinely connect with others, which is why she referred me to this role on your team.


Related articles

How to Apply for a Job in 6 Easy Steps

Explore more articles