Referrals: Your Secret Weapon to Leveling Up Your Cleared Job Search

Posted by Ashley Jones

No two job searches are exactly alike. Your level of difficulty securing a position depends on several factors. How in demand are your skills? How much competition is there in the applicant pool? What does the market look like overall?

Even though we often hear there are more jobs that require a security clearance than available talent, depending on your specific clearance level and skillset you may still have to go the extra mile to stand out from the pack. If you need to level up your cleared job search prospects it may be time to focus on networking your way towards a referral.

We’ll explore why employers value referrals, how they can significantly boost your job search (particularly if you’re targeting roles with a lot of competition), and strategies for obtaining them. Also, hear from cleared employers that have discussed referrals on ClearedJobs.Net’s podcast, Security Cleared Jobs: Who’s Hiring & How.

So if you’re feeling stuck in your cleared job search, don’t worry – referrals might be the key to unlocking the door to your next offer.

What Cleared Employers Think About Referrals

Any company you talk to will tell you they love referrals,” shares Katie Sargent, Two Six Technologies. “We really place an emphasis on it. I think our referrals represent between 35-40% of our hires.”

“We have a great referral bonus program,” adds Katie Sargent. “We’ve branded it, launched it, and made it easily accessible. Last year, I think we paid out just over $350,000 in employee referrals.”

Some companies are getting creative with their incentives to gain more referrals. “We’ll be headed off to set sail on our second cruise that was based on referrals,” says Kearstin McGinnis, TekSynap. “If you referred a candidate and they got hired, you immediately got paid out your bonus check after 90 days. But we also had a magic number that we had to hit that automatically activated a cruise for every employee that referred a candidate that was hired. So in the last six months of the year, we hired 104 referrals which triggered that cruise.”

“Referrals are gold for recruiters,” admits Taryn Lazroff, formerly of Noblis. “We don’t have to dig and search. Send them our way!” Referrals are so valuable that some companies like Noblis are even willing to pay referral bonuses to people who aren’t employees.

The positions that we note #ExternalReferral on are the ones we’re looking to fill quickly,” shared Taryn Lazroff. “That means if you refer somebody, they can get hired quickly, and you’re gonna get paid quickly. You’re helping out a friend, you’re getting them in with a great organization and an amazing position, and boom – extra cash in your pocket.”

Between offering cash bonuses and other rewards like company cruises, it’s clear that employers see value in referrals. But what is it that makes them so desirable?

Why Employers Are Investing in Referral Programs

Employee referrals are one of the best ways to find folks,” admits Mark Michalski, St. Michael’s. “There’s something special about an employee referral because it tells me multiple things. One, the employee that referred this person is really happy at St. Michael’s. I would not personally recommend somebody to come and work at a company that I didn’t care for very much.”

“The second thing is, the employee has some personal stake in it because they know the individual,” explains Mark Michalski. “It’s not the ultimate vetting process, but it is a vetting step towards getting the hire right. Again, if I’m putting my name next to a former co-worker’s name and saying you have to go out and hire this person, I’m going to make sure that person is perfectly qualified and is going to represent themselves and me very well. It’s a win-win for everybody.”

Why Referrals Can Boost Your Job Search

As Mark Michalski explained, an employee referral is a win-win because not only is the referring employee vouching for you, but they’re also vouching for their company. If someone doesn’t like a particular restaurant, they probably won’t take you to dinner there. The same goes for workplaces. If someone wants to refer you to their company, that’s a good indication they enjoy working there, giving you deeper insight into whether the company will be a good fit for you too.

Aside from gaining valuable intel from your network, your odds of being noticed and considered for the position significantly increase with referrals because you become a known entity. Or as Mark Michalski put it, you’re already vetted to some extent.

With that in mind, employers don’t want referrals to slip through the cracks – they’re too valuable. Katie Sargent noted, “We make sure we’re in touch with every referral within 48 hours.”

So if you’re applying to jobs and not gaining any traction, networking and obtaining referrals will help ensure you’re more closely considered, especially when competition is steep and employers are trying to spend their time wisely by starting with those that have already been vouched for.

“Your best talent is going to come from your best talent,” asserts Dorion Baker, formerly of Acclaim Technical Services (ATS). “When we receive referrals, we act on them immediately and look for any place where they might be a great fit.” In fact, Dorion shared as many as 60% of ATS’ hires come from their employee referral program.

So if you want to stand out and improve your chances of being closely considered, read on for our tips to secure a referral.

How to Get a Referral

Referrals sound like a win-win for all parties involved, but how do you actually go about getting them? Here are some strategies:

  1. Leverage Your Existing Network: Start with who you know. Do you have former colleagues or supervisors who are connected to companies you’re interested in? Even if they don’t personally work at your target companies, they might know someone who does. Don’t hesitate to let your network know about your job search and the companies you’re targeting. Networking isn’t just about direct connections – it’s about tapping into the extended networks of those you know.
  2. Proactively Connect with Peers at Companies of Interest: Expand your networking efforts beyond recruiters. While connecting with recruiters at Cleared Job Fairs and on social media is a valuable best practice, don’t overlook the importance of networking with other professionals in your field too. You don’t always need someone in your network to make an introduction to grow your network. Look for individuals who hold positions similar to the ones you’re targeting at your desired companies. LinkedIn is a powerful tool for this. Since these professionals aren’t constantly bombarded with connection requests like recruiters, they may be more receptive to networking conversations. And unlike a recruiter, they can actually refer you once you get to know each other. But keep in mind, without people in common, it will take longer for them to get to know you well enough to vouch for you. This is a long networking play.
  3. Find Positions with External Referral Bonuses: If your network doesn’t yield any employee referrals, consider exploring external referral programs. You can search for these opportunities on companies’ career sites or by using keyword searches on job boards like ClearedJobs.Net. For instance, companies like Lockheed Martin and ASRC Federal have external referral opportunities listed on ClearedJobs.Net currently. These kinds of referrals don’t require you to know someone within the company. Instead, ask someone you might typically use as a reference to provide an external referral for you.
  4. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask: Most people are happy to help if they can. Try not to let nerves stop you from asking for a referral. Remember, the worst someone can say is no. But you can help them feel confident in referring you by reminding them of your skills and experience that support why you’re a good fit for the job you hope to be referred to. And in the case of companies with referral bonus programs, there may be something in it for them financially if you get hired. Another win-win.
  5. Remember Networking is a Two-Way Street: Networking isn’t just about taking – it’s also about giving back. Offer to help your connections in any way you can, whether it’s by providing referrals for them when applicable, sharing industry insights, or offering assistance with their job search in some other way. By nurturing mutually beneficial relationships, you’ll build a strong network that can support you throughout your cleared career, leading to future referrals down the road.

It All Comes Down to Networking

At the end of the day, referrals are all about networking. A referral doesn’t always have to be something formal that pays out cash bonuses via an official referral program. It might simply look like an employee stopping by their colleague’s desk to say, “Hey, I know someone that you should reach out to who has the skills you’re looking for.”

Many jobs are found through networking, and employers recognize that. That’s why they pay attention to referrals. So, whether it’s a formal referral program or a casual conversation between colleagues, referrals play a crucial role in connecting talented individuals with the right opportunities. Start networking toward your next referral today to improve your odds of securing your next security-cleared job.


  • Ashley Jones

    Ashley Jones is ClearedJobs.Net's blog Editor and a cleared job search expert, dedicated to helping security-cleared job seekers and employers navigate job search and recruitment challenges. With in-depth experience assisting cleared job seekers and transitioning military personnel at in-person and virtual Cleared Job Fairs and military base hiring events, Ashley has a deep understanding of the unique needs of the cleared community. She is also the Editor of ClearedJobs.Net's job search podcast, Security Cleared Jobs: Who's Hiring & How.

    Ashley Jones [email protected]
This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 14, 2024 10:05 am

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