Employee referrals are an excellent way to attract new qualified candidates through recommendations – a method of recruiting that companies particularly appreciate. According to the French agency for the employment of executives (APEC), 89% of recruiters are open to hiring through referrals. And just like with any other talent acquisition channel, there are best practices to follow, and things to avoid.
An increasingly popular recruiting channel
Employee referral is a process that helps pick out candidates who aren’t necessarily visible nor active on the job market. How? Through personal recommendations (friends or family members) and also professional recommendations (former colleagues, customers, business partners, etc.).
Advantages of employee referrals (source: Qapa):
- 88% faster time-to-hire
- 76% cheaper cost-per-hire
- 59% better-qualified candidates early on in the process
Best practices for referrals
Referrals provide a precious opportunity for recruiting motivated and qualified talents. But in order to reap all the advantages this recruiting channel has to offer, it needs to have solid foundations.
Referral terms must be clearly available and communicated in-house. Whether your referral process is still at a home-made stage or already fully developed (with a dedicated programme), your employees and their referrals need to know what to expect. For example:
- Their role in the process = recommend candidates and put them in touch with the right people
- What happens and how they’re rewarded if the candidate is hired (or passes their trial period) = bonuses, benefits, etc.
- A reminder that referring doesn’t give rise to any procedural shortcuts = standard recruiting processes apply
Referring employees must be kept informed on the recruiting process and on whether the profile they put forward succeeded or not.
Simplify recommendation procedures
It is essential to make submitting recommendations easy. This will not only motivate your employees to make referrals, it will also boost potential candidates’ wish to be recruited.
A complex process for referring can quickly discourage employees from participating. If your process requires that employees sign up on a dedicated platform, fill in several forms, upload the candidate’s resume, etc., then your process is already too long.
Why not duplicate your one-click application procedure and provide a quick and simple one-click referral process?
Choose the right tools to create your referral programme
Whatever tool you choose, it will have to be fully dedicated to your referral programme. Your aim will be twofold:
- Perform adequate monitoring of candidates referred.
- Grow the referee-recruiter relationship throughout the entire process.
Ideally, your referral tool must provide features for:
- Submitting a recommendation
- Following the status of the referred candidate
- Displaying information on rewards
- Following the status of the referral bonus (where applicable)
Referral tools also need to be selected and deployed as soon as your organisation develops beyond a certain size. Failure to do so will make it particularly difficult for you to manage your referral programme. If you want to take the tool that extra mile, connect it to your ATS for a 360-view.
3 mistakes to avoid
Staying too quiet about your referral programme
The number one mistake to avoid is not communicating on your employee referral programme.
It is of course crucial to develop a well-structured, comprehensive referral programme with the validation of members of the steering committee. But your programme must be visible, it must be communicated among all interested parties within your company. Overall commitment to the programme is a necessity.
Our tips for communicating efficiently on your programme:
- Market your programme with a catchy name, attractive promise, and distinctive identity.
- Involve the entire company in the communication phase.
- Explain the strategy and key points to your employees.
- Resort to multi-channel communication, through emails, on-site posters, events, statements, etc.
Last but not least, don’t forget to let your employees know about available vacancies so they can pass on the information to their network – a simple but major factor for a successful referral programme.
The main problem with pulling strings, i.e. circumventing processes and not enforcing a fixed set of rules, is the temptation to recruit on an excessively personal basis. Personal preferences and friendships can play an overbearing role, and this can lead to mistakes.
So just remember: referring doesn’t mean pulling strings. Referring isn’t meant for granting recommended candidates the right to jump the queue. Once a candidate has been referred, they must systematically integrate the company’s standard recruiting process and follow each and every stage.
In any case, if you don’t have at least some sort of framework, you’ll find yourself struggling to get employees to even refer candidates in the first place. If the rules of the game aren’t clear, people probably won’t want to play. Misunderstandings, frustration, and even conflicts can arise and poison the climate inside the company.
Neglecting referral programme steering
Employee referral isn’t an aspect of HR that just manages itself. Developing a referral programme involves fostering a community of contributing employees. And where there’s a community, there’s got to be some form of management, but also, and more importantly, engagement. By maintaining motivation and engagement among referees, you give your programme a much-needed impulse.
How to manage and engage
- Regularly communicate on the referral programme
- Request feedback from contributors
- Organise specific flash campaigns
- Provide a platform within your referral tool for discussion
- Gamify the way you manage the programme
Don’t forget that employee referrals also provide a great indicator to check up on your team’s morale. The number of referrals you receive can give you an idea of how motivated and engaged your employees are. As such, employee referrals are a useful instrument for assessing internal employee satisfaction.