in career development

Looking for work? Don’t hide your referees

It’s tempting to write “referees available on request” in your CV, but research shows that being able to name those referees can give you a clear advantage in the job market. The key is to find a referee at the same organisation you’re applying to.

A study by MIT and the US Federal Reserve Bank[1] suggests that a referral from a current employee of a company can vastly improve your chances of getting an interview and, ultimately, of being hired by that company.

The study also found that referred candidates were more likely to start on a higher wage and stay longer with the company. These effects appear to be stronger for jobs with lower skill levels, ie entry-level jobs.

Writing in Quartz, Max Nisen summarises several related studies that produced consistent findings.

Nisen also notes that “a significant majority of referrals tend to be people of the same gender and race, and of a similar educational and socio-economic background.” In short, he concludes:

“Referrals have a diversity cost. But companies will generally take the easier path that’s cheaper and more productive. For those without the inclination to network, this can be tough news to hear. But the data is clear: making connections pays off more than another dozen online applications.”



[1] Brown, Meta and Setren, Elizabeth and Topa, Giorgio, “Do Informal Referrals Lead to Better Matches? Evidence from a Firm’s Employee Referral System.” IZA Discussion Paper No. 8175. Available at SSRN: