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For Hiring Teams: Supercharge Hiring with Employee Referrals

For Hiring Teams:

Supercharge Hiring with Employee Referrals

Sabrina Deltoro, Founder & Recruiting Director

Delson Talent Consulting

February 14, 2023

Employee referral programs are one of the best and most cost effective ways for companies to source new talent. According to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, employee referral programs are the most successful recruiting method, with a success rate of about 45%. Referrals are often more qualified, have a higher retention rate, fit in better with company culture, and are more likely to sign an offer, compared to candidates sourced through other methods.

Here are a few tips to set up a successful employee referral process:

  • Clearly communicate the program: Make sure all employees understand the referral program, including how it works, the benefits, and any guidelines or requirements. Consider creating a referral policy that outlines the process and provides examples of the types of roles and candidates that are eligible for referral. Some companies have different scales for tech and non tech referrals given the difficulty of hiring for tech roles.

  • Offer incentives: One of the most effective ways to encourage employee participation in the referral program is to offer incentives. These could include swag, cash bonuses, or money to donate to a cause the employee cares about in a company donation portal. Be sure to clearly communicate the details of the incentive program, including how and when rewards will be distributed so your payroll / marketing teams aren’t inundated with requests.

  • Make it easy to refer: Make it as easy as possible for employees to refer candidates by providing them with all the necessary information and resources. This could include a list of open positions, job descriptions, and any referral forms or online portals that need to be completed. Additionally, consider setting up a referral mailbox or email address where employees can easily submit referrals. I highly recommend asking how well the employee knows the referral, if they’ve worked together before or have heard about their work, to get a sense of the quality of the recommendation.

  • Follow up with referred candidates: Once a referral has been submitted, be sure to follow up with the candidate in a timely manner. This could include scheduling an initial phone screen or interview, or providing them with additional information about the position or company. By promptly following up with referred candidates, you show that you value their time and interest in your company. This helps maintain trust with employees. If it takes a while for referrals to hear back or make it through the process, employees may no longer be as motivated to spend time connecting their contacts with the company.

  • Provide feedback: Keep employees informed about the status of their referrals by providing regular updates and feedback. This can help to build trust and encourage continued participation in the referral program. I recommend letting them know when you’re moving forward with an initial call, when you’re moving the candidate to onsite, and if you’re planning on making an offer to their referral, so the employee can help encourage their contact along the way.

Whether you have budget or not, there are a range of paid and free tools available that can help companies manage and optimize employee referral programs, such as:

  • Referral software: Referral software is a tool that helps companies automate and manage their employee referral programs. These tools typically allow employees to easily submit referrals, track the progress of referred candidates, and receive rewards or bonuses for successful referrals. Some examples of referral software include Rolepoint, Referral Hero, ReferralMob, and Ambassador. One benefit of referral software is that it can streamline and simplify the referral process, making it easier for employees to participate. However, it is important to ensure that the software is user-friendly and easy to navigate, as complicated or cumbersome systems may discourage participation.

  • Social media: Social media platforms, such as LinkedIn and Facebook, can also be used as tools for employee referral programs. Companies can use social media to promote open positions and encourage employees to share job openings with their networks. This can help to increase the reach and visibility of job openings, and potentially attract more diverse candidates. One potential drawback of using social media for employee referrals is that it may not be as targeted or personal as a referral from a colleague or friend.

  • Employee referral portals: Some companies have implemented employee referral portals, which are online portals specifically designed for employee referrals. These portals typically allow employees to browse open positions, submit referrals, and track the progress of referred candidates. One benefit of employee referral portals is that they provide a central location for all employee referral activity, making it easier for companies to manage and track referrals. Often these portals have a section for internal transfers, making it easy for current employees to browse open opportunities. However, it is important to ensure that the portal is user-friendly and easy to navigate, as a complicated or cumbersome system may discourage participation.

Setting up a successful employee referral process can help companies to source high-quality candidates and increase the number of referral hires. There are a range of tools available that can help companies to manage and optimize their employee referral programs. By clearly communicating the program, offering incentives, making it easy to refer, following up with referred candidates, and providing feedback, companies can encourage employee participation and create a more effective and efficient recruitment process.


"Designing and Managing Employee Referral Programs." Society for Human Resource Management


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