What is employee referral?
Employee referral is one of the internal recruiting methods where employees are encouraged to refer suitable applicants for open roles from their professional, family or social circles. In return, employers delight or reward their employees with incentives.
Why are employee referrals important?
Finding ideal candidates has become increasingly difficult for recruiters in a candidate-driven job market. It has become equally difficult to justify the amount of time, effort and resources that go into hiring great candidates.
That’s why employee referrals become one of the most reliable sources of candidates for recruiters. They can leverage the connections they have with their current employees and get them to suggest time-worthy candidates they might already know.
Employee referrals also reduce the time and cost to hire drastically. They bring in candidates of great caliber and have shown to increase the retention rates among employees.
11 tips to fuel up your employee referral program
- As a part of the referral drive, organize a referral hour where your employees can browse through their friends’ profiles and quickly grab the bright ones for you.
- Involve your marketers in marketing your referral program – They can help you with ideas, content, and you can even host an afternoon where they help colleagues polish their social media profiles (Facebook, Linkedin etc) and put out impressive ones.
- Ask only for the basic information of the candidate like name, number, email id, experience etc. Makes it easy for your employees to hand them over to you. Once you have it, you can take it from there.
- Reward intent – you will not end up hiring all the candidates your employees referred. But you can always reward the intent to refer. This would encourage employees to actively rerefer.
- Provide templates or any material (clear job descriptions on an email, culture videos, videos of people talking about their experience in the role etc) that they can use as they invite people to pursue jobs in your organization.
- You don’t always have to wait for an employee to refer a friend of theirs. You proactively source from their social network and then ask if they would recommend that friend for a role.
- Ask more specific questions – Who’s the greatest content writer you have ever worked with? More likely specific questions will bring a few faces to their mind.
- Speed up the process of hiring for referred candidates, keep your employees up to date on what’s happening with their referral. That keeps both the referer and applicant motivated.
- Don’t wait for your hiring season. Gather applicants in and out of the hiring season and grow a solid talent pool that you can turn to as roles open.
- Always give feedback. Feedback gives candidates a good candidate experience, it helps employees align with your hiring goals and refer the perfect candidates in future and it helps your hiring managers describe or chisel their job descriptions with more specifics.
- Keep track of the time for the first conversation after someone referred a candidate to you. Treat referred candidates different from the other candidates, tag them and put them on a fast moving track.
What are some creative ideas to market your referral campaigns within the company?
In other words, how to motivate your employees to refer friends and family?
Eye-catching creative posters around the workplace
Posters are great stimuli to show and remind your employees about your referral programs. Put them up on prominent places in the workplace, they don’t always have to be in the announcement area or on a notice board.
GoDaddy’s LinkedIn Referral program
Two years ago during one of their LinkedIn referral campaigns, the recruiting team at GoDaddy sent mirrors to their employees stating ‘This is what a GoDaddy Recruiter looks like’. With a mirror like that on your desk, you have to try really hard to miss an ongoing referral program.
Rotate your reward system
Keep changing your rewards seasonally. People are different and have different motivators. Some are driven by monetary incentives, others by recognition and some others by opportunities to an experience they would personally never invest in.
Reward your employees with an experience instead of cash – a phone, a vacation or a bike for someone who brings in the most referrals in a certain quarter or year.
Give all active participants a t-shirt that recognizes their participation or efforts. The others will notice and eventually join in.
Flash it on the big screens
Flash all announcements for the program on the huge screens at work – the ones in your lobby, lunch halls etc.
Make a game out of it
Turn it into a game between individuals or teams and announce a reward for the winning side. You could split teams region wise or roles wise but make sure they all have an equal an opportunity to refer.
Your employees don’t have to be your only source for referrals. Your bright candidates or ex-employees are likely to have great people in their network. You can always shoot them an email asking if there is anybody they would like to suggest a particular role.
Involve your new hires
Ask your new hires for referrals within the first week or their first 15 days depending on your onboarding period. Introduce them to referring tools and methods at the organization. As a part of the introduction, you can show them a few open roles and encourage them to refer people from their network.
Here’s how Hubspot encourages their new hires to refer:
As a part of their new employee’s induction, Hubspot does a new hire presentation on the Hubspot culture which also focuses on referrals. They not only show them where they can do it but also teach them how to navigate through their connections to find great people.
Get your leaders to talk about it
If leaders can show they can make it a priority and take the time to emphasize it in company meetings, employees are likely to understand the importance and contribute.
Making the most out of your referrals
Though the primary aim of a referral drive is to fill open positions, with a little bit effort and focus you can leverage your referral drives to achieve a lot of other things for your organization and the recruiting team – promoting your employer brand, building a solid database of candidates for future roles, building a community of experts / a community of brand loyals, etc
Promote brand – No amount of glassdoor reviews or culture videos can match up to the words of someone who works in and for the company itself. When your employees reach out to friends and family to invite them to pursue open roles, give them material or equip them to promote the company’s employer brand.
Get more referrals – Get your referrals to refer. Focus on growing a talent pool you always turn too. Collect good candidates into the talent pool and start to nurture them until the proper time.
Community building – Invite them to your communities depending on their area of expertise – could be an open digital marketing group, an engineering group or the like. They are more likely to engage and contribute because they are familiar with the brand and have friends and family in the same community.
Fish for customers – building a connection with them could even bring you customers at the end of the day. They might vouch for you in the companies they work for.
Counter negative reviews – Referrals create a ripple effect, your employees talk about the company to their colleagues and show them your values and culture. This will help you override any negative reviews or impressions posted online on sites like Glassdoor or elsewhere.
Don’t let your diversity take a hit
When you run referral drives, there is a possibility that your employees refer people that very similar to them. This can take a hit on your workforce diversity.
Pinterest wanted to hire women and minority engineers. Their already employees were predominantly male and mostly white or Asian. They used their referral drive to fuel their diversity efforts. Pinterest encouraged and rewarded employees who referred candidates from underrepresented backgrounds or communities.
Key performance indicators of a good employee referral program
Monitor and measure the effectiveness of your employee referral program – that’s the only way to optimize. Here are pointers on what you should measure and why.
Employee participation is the backbone of your referral program. Everything else comes next. If your employees are not willing to take part, then your referral program is going nowhere near its full potential.
In case of low participation, like we already discussed, market your program better, have attractive rewards, focus on building a great culture into which they will want to bring their friends and family.
Cost per hire / ROI
Compute the cost per hire for all referred candidates and compare it with the cost per hire for other channels. Referrals are definitely one of the best means of hiring budget-wise.
When measuring the effectiveness of your employee referral program, not all your indicators should be along the lines of hiring. You should also measure the other outcomes such as employee participation, brand reach, number of new candidates added to the talent pool etc.
How many of your employees re-refer people? If you see a drop in the number of repeat referrals, you should identify why and fix it. Usual suspects – slow hiring process, lack of status updates on previous referrals, bad candidate experiences previously etc.
Quality of referrals
Number hired from referred – Track the number of candidates you hire from the total number of referred candidates. If you don’t see a good number of conversions, equip your employees with more specific descriptions of the jobs you are trying to fill and the type of people you are looking for.
Track your brand reach – if there is a way to measure how far your jobs are shared, do it. It does not just have to be your job postings, it can also be other content or videos that lead users back to your careers page or your job portal.
The retention rate of referred candidates
You can’t really conclude the success of your employee referral program by the number of people you hire, the cost you cut down or the speed at which you are filling open positions. It’s important to consider their performance in comparison to hires from other sources, and also the time for they tend to stay in the organization.
That’s all from us. Happy Recruiting!