It’s that thing every job hunter dreams of – being the inside candidate for an opening because of a personal referral. Someone actually personally recommended you for the job. You walk into the interview with a little extra pep in your step, and a little boost of confidence too.

This week I encountered two of these lucky people – one as a member of an interview panel and the other who shared his story. And, despite the advantage of being the candidate who was already on the short list, neither of them got an offer. I believe it’s because both of them missed this point:

Being referred, or having a recommendation from a person of influence is no guarantee of a job.

A Referral Doesn’t Get You An Offer

The woman I interviewed was recommended by a board member for the organization and that carries a lot of weight. I had created standard situational interview questions focused on the job requirements, and every candidate was asked the same questions, in the same order, by the same member of the panel. The setting was friendly and casual, giving the candidates every opportunity to shine.

Yet, the responses from the inside candidate fell far short. She gave general answers, of the “I can figure that out,” variety, didn’t have examples to draw on and had no questions about the job when asked.

I was left wondering, “Is she taking this opportunity for granted because of her connection? Or, does she truly not know how to talk about her skills?” In either case, we were not impressed. Worse, her performance was not a great reflection on the individual who recommended her.

When you receive a personal recommendation – when someone, on your behalf, basically says “You’ve got to apply for this job, you’d be great! I’ll put in a good word for you!” – that’s the time to step up your game, NOT sit back and relax!

For guidance on how to prepare for your next interview check out this advice: Seven Steps to Prepare for a Job Interview

And if you need help, contact me or schedule a complimentary consultation here.

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