When you're applying for a job, knowing someone at the company gives you some insider knowledge. If you have a referral, you'll increase your chances of getting the job by 40%, according to recent studies.
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We've covered how contacts and your professional network help in your job search. If you're applying to a company, tap into that network and see who already works there. Contact them and ask if you can put them down as a referral on your job application.
The Quartz explains why companies are more likely to hire referred applicants:
Such applicants have been shown repeatedly in studies (pdf) to be significantly more likely to stay at a firm for longer, and to be more productive (pdf). This might be because the workers are better matches, or because they have a pre-existing mentor or monitor in the person that helped hire them.
Referrals also come pre-vetted -- to a certain extent -- and cost less to find.
Don't just put down a random name of someone you know. Putting down the wrong name could actually work against your application. The referrer needs to be someone who is doing well at the company.