Four ways to boost employee referrals

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Recruiters rate referrals as the best way of finding quality candidates, but careful consideration must be given to making this work

Personal recommendations have always been the preferred method to help us make decisions in many parts of our lives. Social media has served only to increase the importance of first-hand knowledge by connecting more of us in more ways.

The same is true in the business world, particularly in recruitment. Jobseekers are more likely to find a new role through a referral than any other route, and 80% of recruiters rate them as the best way of finding quality candidates. This is because employers know referred candidates are more likely to get up-to-speed in the role more quickly, and stay with the company longer.

Despite this, many employers are not fully capitalising on referrals. Recent data shows that a concerning ‘engagement gap’ has emerged. While the overwhelming majority of recruiters (87%) believe that employee engagement is the key to successful referrals, only one in five are happy with the way their staff currently engage in this process.

Increasing your talent pool tenfold

Social media has vastly increased the size of the talent pool that companies now have access to by enabling them to tap into the networks of people already working for them. It’s not a question of why a company should invest in referral programmes, but instead how can they afford not to.

The biggest trap employers fall into is failing to fully understand the motivations for staff to recommend a contact. Just 6% put financial reward at the top of their list of motivations. Instead they're far more likely to value helping their friends (35%), helping their company (32%), and being seen as a valuable colleague (26%).

With that in mind, there are four ways for employers to boost referrals:

Keep referring employees in the loop: Nothing will ruin a referral programme quicker than one of your employees referring someone and never hearing back about it.

Instead, ensure your recruiting team responds to every single employee referral, even if it is just to tell the referring employee why you're not moving forward. Not only does this ensure people feel like their referral was actually considered, it also helps educate your workforce on who they should be referring.

Ensure it is really easy to refer at your company: The easier it is for an employee to refer someone, the more referrals you’ll get. This could simply be emailing someone’s LinkedIn profile or resume to a recruiter, or encouraging employees to drop by and tell them in person.

Instead of a cash referral bonus try giving away experiences: Most companies generally give out some sort of cash bonus if an employee refers a candidate that ultimately gets hired. That may work, but there’s strong evidence that an experience of the same cost will encourage more referrals than just straight cash.

Market, market, market: One of the biggest reasons people don’t refer is they don’t know what positions are open at the company or referring isn’t on their radar. So market your employee referral programme by advertising open positions and publicly recognising staff who do refer. This can be as simple as starting all-hands meetings with hiring managers, talking about vacancies and about encouraging their colleagues to refer anyone they feel is good.

Employee referral programmes don’t have to be complicated. Social media is making large parts of business simpler and more intuitive, including the most important driver of a company’s success: its ability to find and recruit the best talent.

Pierre Berlin is senior director, LinkedIn Talent Solutions EMEA

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