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Learn how to catch the eye of your dream company through an employee referral

Job hunting. Networking is key to getting your foot in the door.

Want to turn a recruiter's frown upside down? Try to get an employee referral.

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Online retailer Zappos made news earlier this year when it announced it would be zapping job postings. That’s right, they’ve been nixed, and hopeful job seekers have to find another way in the door.

According to industry buzz, they want to get to know applicants rather than having them apply to the giant black hole known as the applicant tracking system. Prompting job seekers to become “insiders,” their site includes ambassadors’ Twitter handles and LinkedIn profiles for each team and essentially details ways that job seekers can connect to recruiters via social media and through referrals.

They’re on to something. According to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, referred candidates are twice as likely to get interviews as non-referred candidates. Referred candidates also have a 40 percent better chance of getting hired than other applicants. Armed with this data, job seekers should rely on referrals for the highest rate of return on their time and energy investment in a job search. Here are a few tips on how to get started.

Look at your social networks. For starters, search LinkedIn for connections, ask for introductions and schedule informational interviews. But don’t just do this when you’re looking for a job and eager to move on — people can see through that. Networking is an ongoing process to forge strong connections and build new skills. It’s truly a journey.

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Conversations on the phone or better yet, in-person will only be to your benefit. An employee may not feel comfortable forwarding your résumé if he or she met you two years ago at a conference and hasn’t heard from you since. However, if you had invited her out for coffee three months ago and followed up this week, you’re in a much better position to be referred.

Let your true colors shine while getting to know each other. Demonstrate passion for your current role and/or the path you want to pursue. Also, share a little something personal about yourself, whether you’re a season ticket holder for the Giants or a serious fan of “Scandal.” It’s fodder for conversation aside from serious job talk, and you never know when another connection can be made.

Keep in mind thatrecruiting isn’tscientific. Technical skills are important, but when two candidates are compared, from my experience working with countless hiring managers, the hiring decision always comes down to “Who do you like better?” Your best shot getting in the door and staying there relies upon building a network of reliable referrers who you can count on to vouch for you.

 
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