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Employee Referrals: How to improve the quality of applicants

When looking for talent, many employers now rely on the potential of their own employees. The candidates they recommend are after all characterised by being a good fit. But with a few simple measures, the quality of applicants can be improved even further. We tell you how.
Employee Referrals: How to improve the quality of applicants

The potential within your own ranks

The power of a reliable recommendation is now understood not only by online shopping platforms and travel providers. In the top 1000 German companies, about one in three vacancies are published in the personal networks of their own employees. Employers in the IT sector even use this recruitment channel for six out of ten job advertisements. This is also a promising method from the candidates’ point of view: half of them consider a recommendation from a friend or acquaintance the best way of being approached by a company. For recruiters, employee referrals have proven to be an extremely successful strategy for finding just the right talent. Our customers confirm this: in the ARAG insurance group, for example, 40 precent of referred candidates now end up being hired. A figure that no other recruitment channel achieves. The Haufe publishing group also appreciates the quality of employee referrals, identifying 88 percent as sought-after A and B candidates.

Why referrals generally fit like a glove

Referred candidates are characterised by being particularly high-quality applicants. But why is this? For one thing, satisfied employees would not recommend anyone they themselves regard as a poor performer. The risk of subsequent problems rebounding on them is too great. Employees also have a good sense of cultural fit and can realistically assess whether someone will fit into the team or not. A psychological aspect plays an important role here: good people know good people. As a rule, employees recommend people from their own networks who are like themselves, for example, in terms of education, life situation or hobbies. This is a great advantage, particularly in companies with a diverse workforce because this diversity will also be reflected in the referrals, thus strengthening the personnel structure in the long term.

Incidentally, it is not only companies with big names and shiny employer brands that benefit from good referrals. For small and medium-sized companies - the ‘hidden champions’ - referral programmes open the door to a highly competitive applicants’ market. They will only be perceived as potential employers by their target audience through stories from friends, acquaintances or relatives, and serious job recommendations.

👉 Looking to create or enhance your employee referral programme?

Increase the effectiveness of your referrals – Here’s how!

The recruitment potential that lies dormant in your own employees is huge. Nevertheless, in many companies it is only partially realised. With the following three simple measures, this potential can be even more effectively exploited and, above all, used strategically:

Go for a digital referral programme!

A software-based referral solution simplifies the process enormously. Automated communication, for example, through newsletters, personalised campaigns and push notifications, keeps the programme in employees’ minds. A seamless connection to all social-media platforms, your applicant tracking system and your own talent pool are equally as useful as the comprehensive tools for monitoring success. For employees, intuitive handling and mobile access are important for sharing job profiles or social-media posts at any time, and for reading internal notifications. Another advantage is that, in contrast to other “employees recruit employees” schemes, the status of referrals is always visible to both employees and recruiters. You will see how useful this can be in point three below…


Keep the workforce happy by integrating the referral programme into your internal communication. In doing so, it is important to reach everyone via the right channels to keep them engaged. Let your employees know what type of people you are looking for and what actions produce particularly good recruitment results. Provide tips on how job postings or employer content can get the desired attention in social media. The involvement of employees is crucial for success, so managers must be mobilised as internal promoters for the referral programme. Digital referral programmes, which ideally include internal communication tools, are also useful here.

Reward quality!

Digital referral programmes allow you to reward your employees for their efforts in a creative way and, most of all, instantly. With a gamification approach based on collecting points that can be redeemed for rewards in a shop, no one loses the fun of it. Even simple activities such as sharing details of a job vacancy are rewarded with points. Of course, the principle applies here too: quality not quantity! That is why points are also awarded if the recommended candidate enters the next hurdle in the recruitment process, for example, by being invited to a telephone interview. This improves the quality of referrals. Best of all: you decide which activity receives a particularly high number of points and how your reward shop is stocked.

Gamification as a game changer for engagement AND the quality of referrals

Not everyone is open to a gamification approach with a reward system. Some recruiters reject gamification on principle because they fear employees will blindly share job profiles and content just to collect points. The costs would soar uncontrollably. Nevertheless, rewards are the hallmark of any referral programme. Especially when micro-incentives are used to reward small steps. To counteract the feared abuse, more advanced referral solutions offer the possibility of creating an individual points system. This means you decide which activities you wish to reward. You wish to ensure that the quality is suitable? Then (initially) award points ‘only’ as candidates get nearer to the job in the recruitment process. Automatic control mechanisms such as fraud prevention and the setting of individual point limits make the reward system controllable at all times. But there is another reason why we at CleverConnect firmly believe in the gamification concept. Success stories, happy employees and showing appreciation through creative rewards are the perfect thing for your internal communication, employee motivation and thus a booster for the continuing success of your referral programme. Thus, gamification becomes a multiplier for employee engagement.

👉 Looking to create or enhance your employee referral programme?

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