Hiring tricks that get you personal referrals

Finding talent in cities where you don’t have an established network can be easy. I’ll show you how I found designer Matt Rothenberg for a unique Pivotal Labs project in Louisville, Kentucky using my existing networks.

Where are the great designers in Louisville, Kentucky?

Find everyone you know in your target city

  1. Search Facebook for friends in [Louisville].
  2. Search Facebook for the [Louisville, Kentucky] city page and click on the People tab. Look for friends who are from there or have lived there.
  3. Search Linked in for [Louisville]. On the left, change the filter from jobs to People and check the Location box for [Lousiville].
  4. Look for people who work in a field related to your industry: software, technology, design and the arts. Also keep your eyes peeled for the friends who tend know a lot of people and like making connections.
Search Facebook for people in your target city. Talk to the ones who might work in a related field.
Search Facebook for the city’s Page. Look for people who have a network in your target city.
Search Linked in for your target city. Tweak the screws and knobs on the left to find people in your target city.

Write to people you know

  1. Send a short message introducing where you’re working these days, a bit about the new office or job that became available, and that you don’t know anyone in that city but want to help your team. If it’s an email, include a link to the job posting. Keep Facebook, Twitter DMs, and text messages short. Avoid Linkedin Inmail, it’s impersonal.
  2. Talk in medium easiest for your friend to respond. For example, use Facebook or Twitter messenger only if you know they post or comment often. Otherwise send an email or text message. Avoid LinkedIn Inmail.

Ryan and Chris showed up in all of search results. The three of us used to work together so I sent this group message:

Hi guys, Pivotal Labs (where I work) is looking to hire a ux/product designer to work in Louisville in the fall for 6–12 months. Do you know anyone there (or someone who would want to move there) who has at least a year or two of experience or school designing web apps / mobile apps? It’s a good gig. They would come work in SF or NY beforehand to learn how we do things. Maybe even work with me :)
Send a friendly message in an easy medium.

Now it gets interesting. I wrote to a friend who used to live in Louisville who almost immediately declined my offer. Nudge just a little Three days later she came around ready to talk. I introduced her immediately to our Director of Design.

Sometimes people say immediately say no. But give it some time and a light nudge.

I wrote to a few other people who I truly thought would know a good designer in Louisville. My friend Daniel connects to great people everywhere he goes and happens to be from Louisville. He replied a few days later with a referral to Matt:

I used to work with Daniel. He’s from Louisville and is a great connector.

Make the introduction

Don’t waste too much time on back-and-forths. As soon as your referral is interested, introduce them to the hiring manager or recruiter.

  1. Get your referral in the recruiting pipeline and system as soon as possible.
  2. Be available to your referral. Offer to nudge the hiring manager or recruiter if they’re not getting replies they’re expecting. Hiring systems are not always transparent.
  3. Follow up with your friend who made the introduction. Let them know you introduced their contact to a hiring manager. Follow up especially if the referral turns into a job.


Get your coworkers who have moved a lot and/or have great networks to help out. Say something like this:

Hey team, we’re trying to hire a designer for the new project in Louisville. You may not know any designers there, but you might know someone who does. Here’s how you should scrape FB and LinkedIn to find people who can give us referrals to a great designer. https://medium.com/@ninamehta/hiring-for-remote-offices-de509af1a355

Good luck out there!

We’re hiring

Oh yeah! Pivotal Labs needs designers, developers and PMs to work in Boston, Tokyo, Dublin, Seattle, Chicago, DC, Los Angeles, Denver, Boulder, London, Palo Alto, Toronto, New York and SF.

Know someone? I’d love to make the introduction to our hiring manager. Let’s chat: @ninamehta