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11 ways leaders can encourage employee job referrals

5 min read


Most companies realize the value in employee referrals. For one, they’re often better candidates for openings since they’re pre-screened by folks who already work for you. But actually getting your employees to proactively reach out to their professional network can be tough.

How can leaders encourage employees to refer their connections to open positions within the company?

Effective leaders build a community/culture where referrals occur organically
As Millennials enter the workplace, successful organizations recognize their tendency to build a strong team while serving as brand ambassadors. Companies that excel at team building from within also recognize that Millennials network better than any generation before them — and enable their employees to creatively network, from work. In this open environment, employee referrals occur organically — and are far more sincere than old-school, incentive-based referrals.

— Mark Babbitt, YouTern

Crowdsourcing your job description can lead to better employee referrals
What better way to engage your employees than by crowdsourcing your job description? Get them involved in the hiring process by allowing them to brainstorm job details, visuals or videos to include, and where the job is posted. Give them the benefit of passing the job along to their personal networks first. Encourage them to share the job description via their social networks, as well. By allowing your employees to feel connected to your open positions, they are more likely to share it.

— Rob Kelly, Ongig

Offer awesome incentives and make it rewarding
Leaders can foster a referral-based hiring culture by offering incentives for providing viable leads. Make it a fun, rewarding endeavor for employees by offering time off, bonuses, or other perks for consistently referring candidates for openings within the organization. Let employees be a part of the hiring process!

— Sudy Bharadwaj, Jackalope Jobs

Referrals flow from employees who actually want their friends and colleagues to work with them
You can’t fake culture and respect. If an employee is disgruntled, he or she will not be willing to bring a connection into a business that makes them feel uncomfortable or unwelcome. Employers should survey employee sentiment and satisfaction and make corrective changes to ensure a happy, productive and engaged workforce.

— Joey Price, Jumpstart:HR

Step one in attracting talent? Employee satisfaction
Every single employee is a brand ambassador — and just like a loyal customer that loves a product and tells all of their friends so, a satisfied employee is a talent recruiter for you. Let your employees know they are valued. Solicit ideas from them when it comes to your organization’s culture. Make certain you are offering competitive salaries and benefits. Lead the kind of company people want to work for by engaging employees in what that looks like, and let them do the rest.

— Mary Hladio, Ember Carriers

Get the company CEO involved
Public recognition and gratitude from senior leaders go a long way. Ask your CEO to call out employees at their town hall meetings and thank them for referrals. Publicly talk about the individual’s contributions to the team and company. Invite a small group of those who have referred qualified candidates to breakfast with the CEO. Others will want in!

— Michele St. Laurent, Insight Performance

Build the right type of referral program
First, cultivate an environment that engages and retains your best employees so that they’re comfortable referring friends and colleagues. Second, money speaks in employee-referral programs. Amounts have to be enough to make it worth the effort to submit candidates. Finally, make it easy for employees to submit referrals by deploying user-friendly online tools.

— Joyce Maroney, Kronos

Engage employees and be a good leader
The best way is for the leader to be a good leader. Engaged employees don’t need much prompting to be evangelists for their companies. Give them strong two-way communication, development and actionable feedback, and they will have no problem telling their connections why your company is such a great place to work.

— John Touey, Salveson Stetson Group

Make it easy for employees to determine who in their network may be a good fit for open positions
Provide a tool that tells them who in their social networks has the skills to qualify for an open position. From there, all the employee needs to do is communicate with talent acquisition and let them know which people are worthy of contacting.

— Larry Jacobson, Vistaprint

Fill your organization with talent magnets
Leaders who motivate, develop, and nurture their staff are natural talent magnets. Build an organization with a strong culture and core values, and fill it with leaders who know how to develop their teams. Employees will then be confident that their friends or acquaintances will thrive in the workplace and won’t hesitate to refer them for opportunities.

— Denise Stott, Yodle

Communication is critical
Even the best-designed employee referral program can fail to generate results without a communications strategy. Leaders at all levels need to be able to explain not only that the referral program exists, but also how and why referrals are valuable to the business. Engaged employees are interested in helping the company succeed, providing motivation beyond financial reward.

— Dave Tighe, Head2Head

 Heather R. Huhman is the founder and president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for organizations with products that target job seekers and/or employers. Connect with her and Come Recommended on Twitter and Facebook.