Referrals: Why You Want Them and How to Get Them


Referrals are the most highly rated source of candidate quality. Referrals save the organization a lot of resources in the scouting and recruiting process. The right referral practices can make a huge impact on the success of the organization. What we see more than ineffective referral practices are none at all, and that is a cryin’ shame!

Your talent pool consists of more contacts than you probably realize. We learned that the average employee has about 150 contacts on social media outlets. This means that for every 100 employees, the contact pool is around 15,000 people. While the majority of these contacts won’t be relevant candidates, many of them will be.

Why You Want Them
  • While only 7% of applicants are referrals, that seemingly small portion ends up accounting for 40% of all hires. We’re talking recruiting gold here.
  • They get to getting sooner. Referred applicants start the job an average of 10 days faster than applicants found via job boards, and an average of 26 days faster than those hired via career sites.
  • They fit the bill. 70% of employers found that referred hires fit the company values and culture better than hires from other outlets.
  • Retention is king. Almost half (46%) of referred employees stay for at least 3 years, and only 14% of those hired via job boards stayed for this amount of time.
How to Get Them

Offer relevant rewards for relevant candidates. Give your team a reason to help you out here. Yes, it is beneficial to everyone to have competent employees who fit in and start producing immediately, but sometime recruiters and hiring managers need to kick start this engagement with some sort of rewards program.

For larger companies it is easier to simply offer a standard monetary amount for all hired referrals who last x amount of time. SHRM offers great resources to start an employee referral program (ERP). For smaller companies, you can tailor the rewards for optimal outcome. Find out what they want. It’s not that hard; just ask. Most employees will value time off or work flex options over cash. Furthermore, some employees are worried about making referrals and looking like they’re after the dough. Offer different reward options, including a donation to the charity of their choosing.

Finding out what your employees value can save the company money and ensure that the referring employees are happy. This is a win-win, and it encourages future referrals from employees who have proven to turn out quality candidates.

Get employees in the know. Your employees aren’t exactly visiting your career page daily…they have a job. Let your team know exactly what positions are open for referrals and how to make a referral. This can be in the company newsletter, social outlets or a simple memo.

Employees aren’t going to take the time to refer someone if the process isn’t simple, clearly defined and focuses on follow through and communication. Bring the opportunity to refer someone to them; this should be a proactive process recruiters. The benefits of quality referrals are well worth the effort.

Communicate and follow through. The best way to discourage referrals is failing to communicate and follow through. Let the referrer and the candidate both know exactly what is going on with the status of the application. If this isn’t a match, let them know and thank both parties for their efforts. Furthermore, a positive candidate experience is often shared…and so are the negative ones.

Encourage referrals through offering a great candidate experience. Another great way to encourage those employees who have proven to refer quality and relevant candidates is to give them precedence. Let them know that you value their referrals ensuring them that their referred candidate will go straight to the top of the list, and throw in the promise of a great candidate experience. Giving their referral the top slot lets them know that their opinion is important and relevant; it also increases your chances of a quality and timely hire.

Empower employees with technology. The latest and greatest applicant tracking systems have referral portals that makes it quick and easy for employees to key in referral information on their own. When processes get simpler like this, it greatly encourages participation. This tech cuts out the middle man, and gets referrals into the company database more efficiently. 

Building a quality ERP doesn’t have to be some big HR initiative. Encouraging your team to send referrals your way can be as simple as being inviting and supportive of their input. No one will know you need these referrals unless you ask and reward.