Thinking of referring a friend for a job? First, consider this

In a competitive market for certain highly skilled IT professionals, many companies are turning to employees for help filling open positions with the right candidate. The employment referral process may seem simple on the surface: You recommend someone you know for a job opening at your company, sometimes leading to a handsome bonus if the person is hired. But the process holds some serious consequences if it's mishandled, including damage to your professional reputation.

If you're thinking of making a referral, here are some common mistakes to avoid.

Sticking to close contacts

It's counterintuitive, right? You want to recommend people you know well, like family members and friends. But keep in mind that these personal relationships can suffer if you don't get along at work. You may love the fact that your old college roommate shares an interest in Linux, but if he becomes a co-worker and then endlessly pressures you to talk to management about implementing it at your firm, you may find his passion less appealing. Be certain that someone would be a good employee and colleague before making the referral.

Also, keep in mind that if you consider only close contacts and don't tap into your entire network, you may overlook great potential candidates. Start by identifying the people who seem like the best fit for the job, not the ones you like the most or who have the greatest need for a new position.

Making blind referrals

No matter how well you think you know a person, make sure you've done your homework before making a referral. Find out as much as you can about his or her background, preferences and abilities. Then be as candid as possible about what it's like to work at the company. This will help you better gauge whether the individual is truly suited for the job opportunity and work environment.

Don't feel pressured to refer someone just because the two of you discussed an open position or because an acquaintance asked you to pass his resume to a hiring manager you know. Remember, your reputation is on the line. If you recommend individuals who are unqualified, leave bad impressions during interviews or don't get the job done after they've been hired, it may appear that you don't respect the referral process.

Failing to follow through

If you're going to recommend someone for a job opening, go beyond just turning in the person's resume to human resources. Talk to the hiring manager and explain why your contact would make an excellent employee. Share any insights you might have, such as the fact that the person was considered the firm's Microsoft .Net guru when you worked together at a previous employer or that the individual has personality traits that would fit in well within a particular group.

Overstating your influence

Be sure to remind the person you're referring that your assistance isn't a guarantee of receiving an offer. He or she should approach the situation like any other employment opportunity. That means the candidate must submit a clean, well-crafted resume and cover letter, targeted to the firm and position. If your contact doesn't seem serious about the opening, it'll be nearly impossible for you to sell your firm on his ability to do the job.

Forgetting the rules

Most companies have a particular referral process in place. For instance, some expect you to submit the resume personally, while others allow your contacts to apply on their own and simply mention your name. Whatever the case may be, make sure you know the protocol so you don't miss out on a potential bonus if your referral is hired.

Making referrals effectively is a learning process, but once you've mastered the basics and made a successful match, you'll likely want to make more. As long as the candidates you recommend are well qualified, your company will probably welcome multiple referrals from you.

You never know when you'll be able to help someone, so regularly monitor internal job postings. You'll increase your chances of receiving not only financial rewards, but also the personal satisfaction of helping both your employer and a member of your network.

Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. Robert Half Technology has more than 100 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at

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