There are numerous benefits for a company when a referred job candidate is hired. It’s a faster process—you skip the job posting and screening resumes and just start with the interview. Referrals are cheaper to hire—you don’t have to pay traditional recruiting costs to find them, and since they are faster to hire, internal labor costs are less. Since they have a friend to turn to and ask questions to, referred hires are integrated into company culture more quickly. The new hire and the employee that who referred him both tend to stay at the company for longer than a traditional hire or employee, helping to lower the turnover rate. Benefits are abundant, so the pressing question is: how can your company encourage more employee referrals?
We have compiled the best 12 ways to improve your employee referral program and in turn increase the number of employee referrals at your company.
#1: Make sure your employees like working for your company
Employees won’t refer their friends and family if they don’t like the company they work for. Send out surveys or check on Glassdoor to find out what employees would like to see changed. Then, do what you can to improve employee satisfaction and make your company a good place to be.
Mary Hladio of Ember Carriers said,
“Every single employee is a brand ambassador — and just like a loyal customer that loves a product and tells all of their friends so, a satisfied employee is a talent recruiter for you. Let your employees know they are valued. Solicit ideas from them when it comes to your organization’s culture. Make certain you are offering competitive salaries and benefits. Lead the kind of company people want to work for by engaging employees in what that looks like, and let them do the rest.”
Referrals will flow from employees who really like the company they work for.
#2: Train your current employees
Once you have a referral program set up, you need to teach your employees how to use it.
Meritage Talent Solutions founder Kara Yarnot says that training should cover three aspects:
1. The practical nature of how to use the system
2. What your company is looking for and values in referred candidates
3. What employees can expect when they refer a candidate (i.e. when the referred candidate will be contacted, how/when the candidate will hear back about the position)
We also recommend training current employees about how to use social media to recruit valuable candidates for your company (see #11 and #12).
#3: Make it easy to refer
The more user-friendly you make your referral program, the more referrals you’ll get. Ideally, an employee would only have to pass on a name and some way to contact the candidate, and then the recruiting team would take over. Offer multiple ways to pass along the referral, such as emailing someone’s LinkedIn profile, quickly meeting with a recruiter, etc.
#4: Encourage employees of all positions to make referrals
Don’t limit yourself to requesting referrals from top employees only. You never know who someone is related to, who they went to school with, or who they live by. Expand the pool of potential hires by encouraging everyone at your company to make employee referrals.
#5: Give current employees referral cards to pass out when they meet a well-qualified potential employee
This is another way of making it easier for your current employees to recruit for you. After training your employees on what your company is looking for in a new hire, give your employees referral cards that they can put their name so the recruiting team knows who gave the card. Include contact information so the potential employee can be in touch with the recruiting team and apply for a job.
#6: Communicate in a Timely Manner
Slow communication or lack of communication is one of the main reasons that employee referral programs fail. Employee referrals should be given preferential treatment as far as timely initial contact, phone screen, interview, and decision about extending an offer or not. Go through the hiring process more quickly with them than with traditional candidates. Most importantly, the initial contact needs to be within 1-3 days of the employee submitting the referral. With so many easy and quick ways of communicating, this should not be an issue.
#7: Keep referring employees in-the-loop
After an employee passes along a referral, update him on what was done with it. If the employee never hears back, he will likely feel as though his time was wasted and the referral wasn’t actually considered. This employee will be unlikely to refer someone again.
Respond to every single referral received, even if it’s just to tell the referring employee why it didn’t work out to hire the candidate they recommended.
#8: Offer incentives
Some kind of reward or recognition can really help in your efforts to increase employee referrals. Many companies give a cash bonus for referrals that are hired. If this doesn’t work for your company, there are several non-cash options you could use to recognize employees in their efforts as well. Just make sure you do something!
Non-cash ideas include:
- Public recognition
- A special lunch with the president to honor employees who make successful referrals
- A sincere thank you from the recruiting team, either in-person or in an email
- Positive feedback in the performance appraisal process
- Free movie tickets for a family or something similar
- A reserved parking spot
- First choice of vacation days or shifts
- Prize drawings: make everyone who made a successful referral eligible for a chance to win a vacation trip, car lease, or something similar
Seeing others get recognition for their referrals will inspire coworkers to follow suit and make referrals as well.
#9: …but don’t make it all about incentives
While incentives are good and helpful, they should not be the only reason employees pass along referrals. HumanResources.com says,
“Successful employee referral programs are part of a company’s culture of building a highly effective team and encourage employees to select coworkers who fit the culture and the company’s work ethic. Employee referrals should enhance the referring employee’s experience of work.”
Cultivate a company culture in which employees are dedicated to the company they work for and find fulfillment in contributing how they can.
#10: Focus on a Few Key Positions
Sometimes, especially at large companies, there are too many positions open for employees to keep up with when considering referrals so they just don’t try. In cases like these, inform your employees of a select few positions that you would like referrals for the most (especially the hard-to-fill positions that are essential to your company). Once you have received a certain number of referrals, move on to the next group of positions you want to fill, and so forth.
#11: Use Social Media
Reach job candidates in your employees’ networks by encouraging your employees to post about open positions on their social media. If you post job openings online, your employees can post links to the information on Facebook and Twitter.
#12: Leverage the power of LinkedIn.
According to LinkedIn data, approximately 16 out of every 100 new employees are already connected with someone who works at a company before they are hired. This shows that your employees’ LinkedIn pages are really a valuable resource in recruiting. Job seekers are using LinkedIn connections more than ever to land their next job, so you as an employer should take advantage of that from the other end of the pole. Look for employees who have 100+ connections on LinkedIn, and ask if they know of anyone who would be fitting for the job.