When it comes to making any life decision—whether it’s what to order for breakfast or where to go on our next vacation—we tend to trust recommendations from our friends above pretty much any other source. After all, their excellent taste is reflected in their choice of companions!
And it turns out that this extends beyond what we do in our free time. We actually trust our network to help us make a very important decision that affects most of our waking hours and our life in general: where to work.
Most recruiters already know this. Just take a quick glance at the numbers and you can see that referrals are one of the most efficient and effective ways for companies to make hires. In fact, 51% of recruiters rank referrals as their top source of hires. Making a hire through a referral costs on average 75% less than through an agency, and referral hires boast a 55% faster time to hire than candidates who came through a career site.
As a recruiter, you may be wondering how you can harness the power of employee referrals to enjoy all these benefits. Keep reading to learn six strategies that will help you boost employee referrals at your company.
1. Build a referral culture
In modern companies, your people are your most valuable asset. Employees develop new and innovative products, drive sales and customer success, and define the long-term viability of your organization. As a recruiter, you want to help employees understand this new reality and appreciate how vital hiring is to the success of the company. Delivering on this comes down to your company culture—every employee has to feel that attracting and recruiting the best talent is part of their job description.
Since more than four out of five people trust the recommendation of someone they know, your employees are the key to securing talent in a highly competitive market. When employees vouch for your company to people in their network, you not only grow your talent pipeline, you also make your employees more invested in the success of your company. Employees want their referrals to succeed because their reputation—both within the company and within their inner circle—depends on it.
2. Get your incentives right
Identifying the right incentives and implementing them correctly can encourage your employees to use their networks to engage with candidates for your recruiting team. Incentives can attract and reward new referrers and keep existing ones engaged.
The “right” incentives will vary based on industry, open requisitions, company size, and region, so you’ll have to do your research and experiment to get the right mix for you. You might even ask your employees outright what incentives would be most appreciated. Be open-minded and do what works for your company, employees, budget, and culture.
3. Optimize the employee referral process
Companies can expand their talent pool 10x by recruiting through their employees’ networks. Sounds pretty good, right? So how do you achieve this? Keep in mind that not all your employees have innate recruiting skills. The best way to help your employees become effective referrers is to build the right processes and find tools that help do the heavy lifting. You want to make it as easy as possible for employees to make referrals. Optimizing your referral process and removing barriers to participation will increase the volume, quality, and conversion rates of your employee referrals.
4. Power employee outreach
The best candidates in your employees’ networks will most likely be passive talent, so a warm introduction is key to starting a conversation. A common challenge, however, is that the employee who has the best connection with a candidate may not have the strongest recruiting skills.
As the driving force of your employee referral program, the talent team must provide support and guidance at the right moments to optimize employee outreach and while minimizing the effort it takes to participate. Look for ways that you can support employees throughout the outreach process to improve their chances of getting a response—and your chances of making your next great hire!
5. Provide a great candidate experience
If your outreach efforts have paid off, you’ll begin to get a steady stream of candidates coming through the door. And this step is huge—the candidate experience can make or break someone’s decision to join your company. In fact, 87% of candidates said a positive interview experience could change their minds about a company they doubted, while 83% said a negative experience could change their minds about a company they liked.
Candidate experience also has an impact on the employees who participate in your referral program. If they see that the recruiting team is providing a positive experience for their personal contacts, they’ll be much more motivated to continue to make referrals. And candidate experience is a significant driver of your employer brand and will impact how candidates evaluate your offers and represent your brand to other people in their networks.
6. Create a system of record for referrals
If you’re putting in all this work to get employee referrals, it’s important to spend some time thinking about how you’ll record and track them. Employee referral programs fail when they’re not properly tracked, which causes both employees and internal stakeholders to lose confidence. Referred candidates should never go into a black hole—employees want to know that their efforts are valued and that their professional relationships are taken seriously by the company. You also need to track and share metrics with internal stakeholders to prove the value of your referral program and keep it running.
Now you’ve got the strategies you need to build a successful employee referral program at your company.
If you’d like to learn more about any of these strategies and get additional tips on how to put them into practice, download a copy of our eBook, “6 Strategies for Referral Hiring.”