Career Tips for International Students

3 Steps to Getting Referrals from Your Connections

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Get Referrals from Your Connections


Get Referrals from Your Connections

Dear Coach Kwan,

This pandemic has made job searching so competitive. I am so torn by online job applications that don’t yield results. You taught us about building meaningful connections with US professionals, and you advised we should not ask for jobs right away when connecting with people. I try to follow your advice, but I am not sure how I can turn those connections into job referrals. Could you please give me some advice?

An enthusiastic international student wanting to find a great job

For international students, when the traditional job search process starts to yield worse results than before, you need to find people who can advocate your abilities to your target employers. You want to get your foot in the door without stumbling through immigration question hurdles, right?

Did you know that Employee Referrals are 4x more likely to be hired? If you know how to build meaningful connections, make people like you, and build your networking game plan, you are closer to getting job referrals! There are 3 steps as a checklist for you to get a quality job referral from your connections:

1) Build Your Career Brand

You need to have the right career branding. Without a career brand, your chances of getting job interviews and getting hired will be very small. Chris Ducker said Your personal brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room. Answer this question: if you are not sitting in a room to explain what you’ve done in the past and share your goals, can people identify your expertise and strengths right away when glancing at your resume and your LinkedIn profile for 6 seconds (the average time that recruiters spend reading a resume)? If you haven’t discovered your career brand yet, it is very important for you to work on this diligently. Only then should you ask for job referrals as you only have one chance to impress people.


2) Stay Alert

Having built trust with people in your dream companies and the right career branding for your target job, stay alert. Keep an eye on company news (e.g. business expansions, merger & acquisition, new product launch, system change, re-organization, market competitions, and job openings).

There are many online tools you can use to stay alert with the company news. For example, their social media channels and platforms that provide articles and research on a broad range of stocks, asset classes, ETFs, and investment strategies such as Seeking Alpha and others.

To illustrate, here’s the announcement from Amazon introducing their first custom electric delivery vehicle. This vehicle fulfills their zero-emissions delivery mission. If Amazon’s initiatives are aligned with your skills and career goals, then you can link their organizational goals to your career brand and reach out to your connections at Amazon for insights about the business units that are working on this project.

Amazon advertisement

3) Ask

Don’t be afraid to ask. However, instead of asking, “Can you please refer me?”, do your homework extensively before asking someone for help.

Lots of career tips claim that asking for informational interviews will lead to job referrals. It’s true sometimes, but it’s not going to be effective if international students ask for one without building meaningful connections at the beginning. Keep in mind that when you ask for informational interviews from a stranger, that person is doing you a favor. What frustrates busy people is when they agree to an informational interview, and then the person seeking advice spends 15 minutes talking about themselves and their job search instead of learning from the professionals. Therefore, my recommendation is to take it slow. Build meaningful connections first and make sure that you have a strong career brand, stay alert with the job and company updates, then ask for referrals.

Once you find an opportunity, reach out to your connection and discuss with them openly and ask for their advice. Here’s my magic question “What would be your recommendation if I’d like to be considered as a candidate for this position?”

What more advice? Fill up the form below and receive your free 3-week career strategy series:

Free Three-Week Career Strategy Series

In this 3-week strategy, you'll find some great examples like...

  • How to plan your career strategy based on your situation
  • How to create an effective networking game plan to turn your new connections into your mentors and job referrals in the future
  • How to build your brand on a resume, LinkedIn profile, and much more to draw recruiters to you

Please tell us about yourself and I'll send your personalized tips to your inbox!

Let's learn from Fernanda below - how she changed her approach and secured a job of her dreams!