LinkedIn Redesign— New Job Referral Experience 👩🏻‍💼👨🏻‍💻

LinkedIn Design Challenge 2020 — New Job Referral Experience 👨🏼‍💼👩🏻‍💼

Redesign Brief 💼

Design Process 👀

Research 🕵🏼‍♂️

First, get familiar with the LinkedIn referral experience!

Initial though:

  • What is the referral?
  • What does the current LinkedIn referral experience look like? Good or bad experience?
  • How does the employee react to people who ask for referrals on LinkedIn? Are they willing to help? Why or why not do they want to help?

Understand LinkedIn referral experience

Some thoughts 👁 about the Linkedin referral feature:

Key Takeaways:

  • Ask for referral feature is gradually being rolled out and may not be available all the time.
  • The current ask for referral feature is only available for 1st connections. If job seekers don’t have any 1st connection work on their applied organization, asking for a referral is not available.
  • The referral experience is just sent messages, which is redundant with the messaging experience.

Next step research goal :

  • Understand how job seekers ask for referrals.
  • Understand how employees handle the referral situation.
  • What is the pain point when they are facing the referral situation?
  • What is the users’ expectation for a good referral experience?
  • What do users expect from a useful LinkedIn referral feature?

In deep interview 📝

Understand job seeker’s attitude

Key Takeaways:

  • Based on the interview, college students don’t like to use LinkedIn to reach out to people. Most students use email or ask for their close relationships as a reference or some they already know, such as a professor or past manager. ( If I have more time, I will learn more about the people of the college )
  • Most students believe to ask for a referral will bring lots of benefits to them; they are willing to ask for a referral.
  • Most students believe LinkedIn can make a referral experience better, to help people build trust without just sending a cold message.
  • Most students don’t feel comfortable asking a stranger for a referral on LinkedIn. They know that company employees may not be willing to help them for a variety of reasons.

Next step research goal :

  • What makes an employee want to refer to a person? What doesn’t?
  • What do they expect a successful referral process would be?
  • How do they expect LinkedIn to enhance the referral experience?

In deep interview 2 📝

Understand the employee’s attitude

Key Takeaways:

  • People don’t have time to read long referral messages, and they believe this is not their responsibility to refer someone they don’t trust.
  • People wish LinkedIn has a preference option to make job seekers know if employees want to help with referrals.
  • People don’t like the cold message; they need to understand their experience and skill to decide quickly.
  • People expect a quality referral process, which can help employees and job seekers build trust.
  • LinkedIn spam messages unlink people’s trust.

Quick Survey 📌

Next step research goal :

  • Interview Synthesis
  • Maybe a potential design opportunity

Affinity Diagram:✏️

Key Takeaways:

  • Job seekers and employees both influence each other’s experiences. The cold message will result in a low chance of reply and a decreasing user experience. However, overwriting will also result in less response.
  • Messaging is not welcome by people to ask for a referral because it’s hard to move forward. People expect more than just sending a message.
  • Both job seekers and employees want to build a meaningful connection with each other. They hope LinkedIn can help them make the experience better.
  • Surprise. I found lots of resonance between job seekers and employees. I believe the breakthrough will get closer.

Next step research goal:

  • Gain more insight into their LinkedIn experience.
  • In-depth analysis of users’ behavior when asking for a referral.
  • In-depth analysis of employees’ behavior when receiving a message.

User Journey map 👨🏻‍💻

Key Takeaways:

  • Two key turning points significantly affect job seekers’ experience.
  • Users who have LinkedIn premium can send InMail that easier to achieve their goal, but control is still in employee’s hands
  • Users without LinkedIn premium need to find an employee who opens the inMail feature or have to make a connection first or use the limit word to express their referral request ( This will take extra time waiting for the employee to connect if no response there is no chance to get a referral on LinkedIn at all )
  • Message quality is the huge factor that influences if a job seeker will get a response or not ( Too long: Time-consuming Too short: attitude problem )

User journey map for Employee

Key Takeaways:

  • There are multiple factors that influence whether employees get a reply or not: Message length, job seeker’s attitude, Time availability, position fit, job seeker’s skill, message type, etc.

Overall Takeaways:

  • There are too many uncertain factors that will affect the overall experience.
  • Messaging is not the best way to approach referral
  • It’s not easy for people to ask for a referral without a meaningful connection.
  • Job seekers tend to go step by step, but employees want to get to the point.

Brainstorming 🧠

Design Opportunity 📐

Job seekers:

  1. They want to take the step to step to approach the referral process.
  2. They don’t feel comfortable messaging a person they don’t know on LinkedIn.
  3. Long message, employees may don’t want to read. Short message, it’s hard to express their goal.


  1. They don’t have time to take a step to step to build a connection with them.
  2. If they wish to get to the point, let them know the goal.
  3. They also don’t have time to read LinkedIn messages. If they want to refer to a person, they need to know their skill and experience.
  4. The cold message doesn’t work, the coffee chat wasted time, and don’t want to get bothered if you are not interested in the referral.

…All the key takeaways helped me hone in on the problem spaces I wanted to focus on.

  • Does it address one of these key problem spaces?
  • What is the best way to approach those problem spaces?
  • How risky is it? Is it worth the investment?
  • Will this design change or decrease the current user experience?

1 How might we create a more pleasant and straightforward job referral experience for both job seekers and employees?

User Flow

Key Takeaways: Current user flow has three main problems.

  • First, users only can ask for a referral through their connection. If users don’t know anyone within their organization, they can’t ask for referrals.
  • Second, the referral message just a referral template that won’t make any meaningful connection.
  • Third, If users don’t have a connection, they need to make the connection first; the time is uncertain, and they may not respond.

2 How might we help job seekers get more chances to ask for a referral?

New LinkedIn referral experience for job seekers

Six Key Improvements:

  1. Connections won’t be a necessary condition anymore: Users can see all available referrals even if they are not connected with this person.
  2. Employees will indicate to job seekers if they want to make a referral or not. Job seekers only see people who are willing to help them. No time waste for both employees and job seekers
  3. The referral request includes all necessary information for the employee to quickly know the job seeker's experience including the message, referral question, job seeker’s experience, resume, etc
  4. There will be a status indicator to show users their request status.
  5. If the employee didn’t accept the request, users could continue to request a referral for other employees who is willing to help and save huge time for job seekers.
  6. Job seekers can start building a meaningful connection with the employee, and if they haven’t connected yet, this is a good time for connecting. ( Connect with appreciation )

3 How might we save employee time and help them to make the quality referral they want

New LinkedIn referral experience for Employee

Five Key Improvements:

  1. There will be a referral page to let users manage the referral status.
  2. Users can send messages to let job seekers know the reason not to refer (humanization)
  3. If users believe these job seekers will be good candidates, they can start a deeper conversation with job seekers even if they are not connected.
  4. Employees can get a quick view of job seekers’ experience and all the information they need from job seekers without viewing job seekers’ full profiles.
  5. Keep in touch with job seekers to get feedback from their interview experience, etc

4 How might we make the new experience fit the current experience without changing or decreasing the current user experience?

Ideation & Entry Point 💡

Wireframe and Prototyping 👨🏼‍🎨

  1. Simple and Straightforward — The user interface and experience should be clear and get straightforward
  2. Ask for a referral — create a referral process to make it easy to ask for a referral.
  3. New referral menu — allow users to view and manage the referral.
  4. Referral setting — Users should be able to customize the referral preference.


LinkedIn’s new and improved job referral experience! 👏

New referral experience for Job Seekers 👨🏼‍💼

First, let’s meet Julian.

Great! Let’s get the start for his ask for referral experience. Find a position!

Next, request a referral

User’s pain point is solved!

  1. Save users time for finding the referral.
  2. Allow users to make a meaningful connections with their referral.
  3. Allow users to provide relevant information to their references to prove their ability.
  4. Allow users to track their referral status.

Some Key Design

New Referral Experience for Employee

Next, Let’s meet Mark 👨🏻‍💻

Accept the Referral

Some key improvements:

  • Employees will get all their necessary information to learn job seeker’s experience
  • Employee know what exactly job seekers want, which save both of time for the entire process
  • This process will create a meaningful connection between job seekers and their references.

Customize the referral setting

Some key design

Usability test ( Feedback and improvement)

Overall review:

Some change base on the user feedback

1 Referral page redesign.

2 Referral request format redesign

Reflection & Future Considerations 🙇‍♂️

If I had more time, I would…

1 More feedback and usability testing

2 Think about the experience between recruiters and employee

3 Design the website experience.

Thanks for reading! 🙏



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Jason Zhou (Zilin)

I am a product designer building human-centered experiences✏️ to positively impact people’s lives.