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When it comes to referrals, what roles do referrers and referees play?

If you want to get to the bottom of what employee referrals entail, you need to understand the responsibilities of all those who contribute in some way or another to the referral programme. Referrers, referees, recruiters, team managers looking to fill a position – everyone plays a specific role. What do these roles involve when it comes to implementing a referral programme?
When it comes to referrals, what roles do referrers and referees play?

Referrer: the person who decides to refer someone

A referrer is someone who will recommend a contact from their network, be it professional (former colleague, supplier, co-graduate, etc.) or personal. They play multiple roles and intervene mostly in the initial steps of the referral process.

Referrers identify potential candidates

After taking stock of the positions available in the company, a referrer’s main role consists of spending time browsing through their network to identify who might be interested in the vacancy, and seeing whether they meet the company’s criteria (skills, experience, mindset, knowledge, etc.). If the referrer identifies relevant profiles, they can get in touch with them to discuss the position.

They can also share one or several job vacancies to their entire network and make themselves available through the contact channels of their choice, should someone show interest in discussing a job opportunity.

Referrers are ambassadors of your employer brand

The role of referrers extends further. During their conversation about a vacancy with a potential candidate, referrers take on the role of corporate ambassadors. During the discussion, they’ll inevitably bring up the specifics of the position that needs to be filled (assignments, team, objectives, etc.), but they’ll also present the company more generally.

Acting as the company’s spokesperson involves knowing how to speak about company culture, internal organisation, key projects, atmosphere, tools, and opportunities for professional development.

Being an ambassador doesn’t mean presenting reality in a better light. Referring someone requires honesty in the portrayal of the company’s situation and the context of the vacant position.

Referrers facilitate the recruiting process

For many referral programmes (although not all), referrers act as liaison officers for a portion of the recruitment process. They tell the potential candidate about the company, but they also tell the company and recruiters about their new find.

Referrers have the power to facilitate and accelerate the recruitment process by preparing both sides for discussion and making sure both are on the same page with regard to work assignments, expectations, start date, etc. – to name just a few.

Now, this doesn’t mean the referee receives special treatment. It simply means the additional step of having the candidate/recruiter discover the vacancy/profile on their own account is circumvented.

Referrers and referral bonuses

Another aspect of a referrer’s role is receiving the referral bonus associated with their recommendation. This usually happens if the referee is selected for the position (or if they make it past their probation period).

Referee: the person who becomes a candidate after being referred

Are referees just like any other candidates? Yes and no.

After being contacted by their referrer, the referee’s primary role is to decide if they want to apply for the position in the company or not. That’s when they really become a “referee”, i.e. only if they decide to apply after conversing with the person who offers to recommend them.

The referee will then apply through a different sourcing channel than other candidates, who’ll be applying through job boards, job vacancy descriptions, recruiting agencies, etc., but they will undergo exactly the same recruitment process (same steps, same criteria, same interviews, etc.).

All in all, they take on a standard candidate role:

  • Learning about the company, its products and services, etc.
  • Preparing and attending interviews
  • Demonstrating strengths to convince recruiters
  • Asking relevant questions

The only difference is that referees can ask their referrer to help them prepare, and they’ll probably benefit from more relevant and/or precise information than a standard candidate might.

New employee: the person who gets hired upon referral

If a candidate who applies after being recommended gets hired, they become an employee. This makes them a rather special employee.

Their onboarding will generally happen more smoothly because they already have extensive knowledge of the company and they already know someone in-house. These referred employees are often highly motivated thanks to their first steps in the company as a candidate.

Here’s another interesting fact: According to Forbes (2019), two thirds of referred employees themselves end up referring candidates to join their new company. So it creates this virtuous circle that keeps adding competent and motivated candidates to the company’s workforce, at a lesser cost.

The role recruiters play in referral programmes

Recruiters take on three different roles when it comes to referral programmes.

Recruiters... oversee the referral programme

Unsurprisingly, recruiters (or recruiting teams) play an organisational role with regard to the referral programme. They assess the company’s recruiting needs, determine how referrals might provide solutions, and establish a set of rules that will govern the referral process within the company. These rules will relate to the type of positions open to referrals, the steps of the process, bonus amounts, rewards, deadlines, etc.

Recruiters... stimulate the referral programme

Once launched, the company’s referral programme needs to be managed in such a way that it yields results. These efforts involve adding new vacancies, communicating among employees, showcasing referral success stories, granting bonuses and rewards, etc.

By themselves, as a team, or in collaboration with the communications team (for example), recruiters will be in charge of bringing the referral programme to life.

To help them carry out this responsibility, recruiters can find precious assistance in the form of a referral programme digitalisation solution capable of automating most of the referral process.

👉 Enjoy the benefits of a digital referral programme: discover our referral tool

Digital referral programmes are advantageous in that not only do they provide all the benefits associated with referrals, they also free up time for recruiters.

Recruiters... hire referred candidates

In addition to their roles as creators and facilitators of the referral programme, recruiters continue to perform their primary role: recruiting!

When recruiting someone recommended on referral, a recruiter’s main task is to treat the referred candidate just as they would any other candidate. Recruiters may still answer questions or provide additional insights to employees who’d like more information in order to have a conversation with a potential referred candidate.

Capitalise on referees who didn’t get recruited to grow your talent pool

All interesting profiles are worth considering – and keeping! Recruiters are also responsible for anticipating future hires.

Referred candidates who fail to get hired or turn down a position can be added to the company’s pool of candidates. They can then be contacted at a later stage should a new position open up.

👉 Do you know how to nurture your talents? Discover our Candidate Relationship Management tool

What referrals change for hiring managers

The team member who opens a vacancy within their team – the hiring manager – won’t necessarily need to take on a different role depending on whether or not the candidate they call for an interview has been recommended. Unlike the other roles set out in this piece, hiring manager duties will be the same regardless of whether the candidate is the product of a referral or not.

That said, just like recruiters, hiring managers might request to sit down with coworkers who’d like to refer one of their contacts, in order to make sure the potential referee has what is needed to meet expectations.

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