Ask a Recruiter: What’s Really the Most Important Part of My Job Application? | Fairygodboss
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Ask a Recruiter: What’s Really the Most Important Part of My Job Application?
Allie Hofer
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Want to know what recruiters are really thinking? In our Ask a Recruiter series, we invite you to take an exclusive look inside the mind of a real recruiter — Allie Hofer — to see how she approaches the hiring process. 

Twice a month, Allie will answer a question from one of our readers. If you have a question about finding the right job posting, emailing the right person, or landing yourself on a recruiter's desk, drop it in the comments.

Q: What's the most important part of my job application? 

Yes, it’s important to optimize your LinkedIn profile and tweak your resume for every single job you apply to. But it may come as a surprise to you that the single most important thing you can do to land yourself a job has to do with a tiny, often-missed question found on many organizations' job applications: “Were you referred to XYZ Company?”

The answer to this question is your one-way ticket to getting a previously-rejected resume reconsidered, or a newly submitted resume evaluated.

As a recruiter, there have been countless instances where a candidate who fell short of the required qualifications for a job was phone interviewed simply because he or she was referred to us by someone in our organization. This practice isn't only important to recruiters because referrals have great conversion rates from hire to tenure and generally improve the quality of hire. It is also important for us to acknowledge the recruiting work our employees doing on our behalf (they’ll stop going to work for us if they don’t feel their recommendation is validated).

While it may not be possible to only apply for jobs where you have a person connection, I do recommend that the majority of organizations at which you apply are ones where you have at least a first or second degree connection. And before you automatically assume that you don’t know a single person at XYZ company, consider if you at least know someone who knows someone.

Hint: LinkedIn makes this very easy.

When you’ve identified at least one person who can vouch for you, alert them that you’ve applied (and yes, apply before reaching out for a recommendation, because all good recruiters will force you through the appropriate channels before moving forward with your candidacy. Hint: this has to do with federal and/or internal reporting purposes). Simply explain to them that you recently submitted an application for XYZ role at XYZ company and attach your resume. Then, kindly request that they pass along your name to the hiring manager responsible for the role.

In this market, it’s usually less than 24 hours after being notified of a referral that I am in touch with him or her.

And before you feel exhausted at all of the legwork involved in answering that one question on a job application, consider these stats from Jobvite and ERE:

  • Referred candidates are 15 times more likely to be interviewed than candidates who simply submit their applications via a job board.

  • 78% of recruiters rank referrals as the best source for quality hires.

  • After two years, retention of referred employees is 45% compared to 20% from job boards.

  • Referrals are only 6.9% of all applicants.

So, now will you do what it takes to be in that 6.9%? Answering “yes” to that short – but very significant – question is your one-way ticket to getting seen.


Hi, there! I’m Allie Hofer, an HR professional and work-life balance enthusiast. More officially, I’m a Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and Society of Human Resource Management – Certified Professional (SHRM-CP). After having my first child, I opted out of the traditional office setting to work from home. Since then, I have been consulting with organizations in the public and private sectors to support the Human Resources function in recruiting, compensation, training and development, and performance management. I started Office Hours to offer a boutique HR solution for small and medium-sized businesses and to help candidates navigate and completely own their career paths

What’s your most burning job search question? Drop it in the comments below and our expert recruiter may answer it in a future post!

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