How to close the referral gap

The referral gap is a barrier that job developers must deal with on a regular basis.

People often need to go to a referral resource to deal with their barriers, but many won’t go. Larry Robbin, a nationally known expert in the area of workforce development, offers advice on how to close that gap and ensure that job seekers with hidden barriers to employment seek out the extra help they need.

Here are a few ways to make sure that happens:

  • Organize a partner agency referral system and cross train each other. Through that process you can try to find a crack in the system that no agency is dealing with and collaborate on finding a funding source to take care of it.
  • Introduce the notion of referrals to your clients early on. In the orientation say you don’t know everything about everything and you will refer them to specialists who can help them.
  • Take photos of the resource. When Robbin’s clients did this so that job seekers could see exactly where they would be going, his clients increased referral throughput by 38 percent.
  • Sell the resource. Don’t just describe it. Tell them your track record with the resource. This will give clients the confidence that they’re not wasting their time.
  • Refer people to a person not a place, and sell them on that person. People will be much more likely to go if there’s a name and not just an address.
  • Use referral-resource alumni. Connect the job seeker to someone who has used that resource. That person can tell them – probably better than you could — about their experience and what it was like to go there.
  • Have your client make an appointment while they are meeting with you.
  • Position yourself as a referral-system advocate. Encourage them and talk up the resources.
  • Schedule a timely follow-up. Talk to clients right after they go to their appointments, either in person or on the phone. Get feedback and pass it on to the resource so they can improve their services.
  • Create an agreement that will encourage job seekers facing hidden barriers to succeed. It can have the following format:




Job seeker name:


Today I promise to take a big step forward to improve my life. Today I will



The benefits of doing this will be



The employment specialist agrees to help by



We agree to work together to make this important step as successful as possible.


______________________                __________________________

Client signature                                             Your signature


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