Internal referrals can be a vital part of a successful hiring strategy. But they’re not the silver bullet they’re often made out to be. Here we’re looking at how to leverage employee referrals to get great people to supplement your talent pool…
“We’ve exhausted our own network.” Something we hear frequently from start-ups who are entering a growth phase and need to source candidates who weren’t already on their radar.
So why do we seem to forget about that existing network further down the line?
We doubled the size of our Delivery team between summer 2021 and spring 2022. At a time when hiring recruiters was more challenging than ever before. Internal referrals played a huge role in that. And, statistics suggest that referred hires stay 70% longer than other employees.
So here’s our top 5 tips for leveraging internal referrals in your hiring process.
1. Incentivise with employee referral benefits
Your team are already busy. Adding another task to their to do lists probably isn’t at the top of your agenda. So make it as easy and rewarding as possible for people to come forward and suggest someone they know.
We did this by offering a month’s salary to anyone who referred us a candidate we went on to hire. Sounds like a lot. But having key positions lying open probably costs a lot more in the long run.
You might not be able to offer this amount for every person, so ask your team what they would prefer. Perhaps it’s an extra day off, perhaps an early finish on a Friday. Maybe they get to work on a particular project.
Either way, offering them something they’d like — money or benefits — is another way to improve your company’s standing with your employees. Who might then pass that positive opinion onto the people they’re referring…
2. Be clear about what you’re looking for
This one applies to any hiring process. But it’s particularly key when you are asking your employees to refer people they know. They don’t want to put their friends or former colleagues into a process that isn’t the right fit for them. Or one they’ll get halfway through and your company will realise they’re not the right person.
This is somewhere that a good recruitment partner can be a great help. We speak a lot about aligning hiring teams and ensuring every stakeholder is aware and onboard with the requirements. Nothing slows or stalls a hiring process more than the hiring manager and the CEO or other key figures having totally different ideas about what they want.
Your recruitment partner can act as a mediator here, using scoping calls and detailed scorecards to find the most important skills, qualifications, and traits of your candidates across the business.
That way, you’re also not going to annoy current employees by wasting their referral’s time and energy on a process where the team isn’t aligned.
3. Be Honest
A really important point for your employee referral policy. When it comes to internal referrals, allow your team to be completely honest and transparent about their experiences. They won’t refer anyone if they don’t feel happy in their job. That honest version of things is likely to be a better seller than a job ad exalting your “excellent culture” and “growth opportunities”. It’ll give people a genuine, clear view of what it is like to work at your company.
Additionally, don’t oversell your business on your company pages. If employees are going to tell their friends “it’s a great place to work but it can be hard to progress”, don’t have your careers page go on about great progression opportunities.
If progression isn’t a reason why people work there, focus on the reasons they do. Is it great benefits, opportunities to learn, or a culture that’s open and honest and lets people bring their whole selves to work? Talk that up.
Your people will be honest with their connections, and it will immediately become clear if you aren’t walking the walk.
4. Keep DE&I front of mind
Does everyone in your company come from the surrounding area? Are they mainly white or mainly male?
As is human nature, it’s likely the people in your business’s friends and acquaintances are similar to them.
One of the dangers of focussing too heavily on employee referrals is that your employee base becomes too homogenous. Everyone comes from a similar background, has similar life experience, and it kills the diversity in your organisation.
And, we know that diversity is good for your bottom line. After all, the top companies for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have better financial returns than those with poor diversity. Different life experiences and areas of knowledge help foster out of the box thinking and lead to better innovation.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t use an internal referral process. Just that it shouldn’t be your only or even main way of hiring. Use it as part of a wider hiring strategy that focuses on recruiting people from all walks of life.
5. Don’t do it all yourself
Internal referrals can seem like a lot of work. That’s because they are. You need to get your team onboard, and you still need to screen and interview candidates.
The plus side? You’re likely to get better quality candidate options as your team will only put forward people who they really think will be a good addition to the business.
Often businesses don’t think to use an outside company to leverage internal referrals. They think about the added cost and say “we’ll just do this ourselves”. But when things are busy, the stringent processes that come with standard recruitment get dropped.
Use your recruitment partner for employee referrals
That’s where your recruitment partner should be able to offer support. At Solutions Driven, we often work with clients — particularly embedded clients — to help screen and do early interviews.
In a situation where you’re considering both external and referral candidates, this help can be vital. Your recruitment company will benchmark candidates against each other and provide shortlists of the top prospects.
People aren’t just hired because an employee knows them. They go through the same rigorous process as any other candidate, and as a result, the best person is hired and is more likely to stick around.
Want to discuss how you can better use internal referrals to get great new employees into your business?