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Generate More Employee Referrals

There are literally a million articles* out there that speak to the importance of employee referral programs, and ultimately, they all say the same thing.

“Employee referrals make the best hires”

Employee referrals typically:

  • Yield the highest ROI
  • Reduce time to hire
  • Reduce cost-per-hire
  • Improve quality of hire
  • Reduce turnover rate

Generating employee referrals is without a doubt a fundamental component to any successful talent acquisition strategy.

I’ve seen a number of organizations get really creative with the reward they provide their employees for participating in their employee referral strategy, and TalentLyft produced a great top 10 list  of different carrots organizations can dangle to try and generate additional referrals from their employees.

I myself have offered up pairs of customized Chuck Taylors and other nonsense to try and get some additional eyes on job postings, but this article isn’t about rewards.

You see, there is a big misconception about employee referral programs that many organizations seem to share.

According to data from LinkedIn, the reward provided to employees to participate in an employee referral program is only the motivator for about 6 % of the general employee population.

That’s right.

In the event that you’re currently monetizing your employee referral program, I’m the guy telling you that increasing your referral bonus is NOT a wise investment.

Here’s why:

If only 6 % of the general employee population is motivated to make referrals by the idea of a financial reward, that means that 94 % isn’t.

According to the data, 93 % of the general employee population refer potential new hires because they want to help their friends land a great job at a great company, want to help their company hire great people, and want to be seen within their organization as someone that cares about the greater success of their business.

When I’m working with my customers to design and implement their very own employee referral strategies, inevitably my customers always ask…

“How much should our referral bonus be in order to generate buy-in from my employees?”.

My response?


The numbers never lie and 93 % is ALWAYS more than 6 %.

From my experience designing, implementing and benefiting from employee referral programs, here are my top four ways that any organization can easily generate (more) employee referrals.

1 – Make it easy for your employees to share information about your organization.

I’ve written about this before, and I’ll write about this again, I’m sure. There is no better way to scream and amplify to the world that you don’t trust your employees than by having an archaic social media policy that requires an “opinions shared are mine, and not necessarily those of my employer” tag line.

Even in Game of Thrones, Hodor shared “Hodor” with each and every person that he engaged with. Your employees are going to talk with their connections and friends about their life, and their work is part of their life.

By providing guidance on why what they share is important to your business, providing them with a library of digital resources to share, and providing them some creative freedom to share their own commentary and context to their connections that know them best, more often than not, your employees will help spread all of the reasons people should want to join your organization via their networks.

You hired them for a reason.

Trust them to act like adults, and they will act like adults.

2 – Make it easy for your employees to share information about your job openings.

Your employees are busy doing what they do best. To assume that they are checking out your careers website every day to see if a new job has been posted is not only silly, but it’s also not practical.

At this point, pretty much every organization has some form of internal communications network, whether that be Slack, Microsoft Teams, Sharepoint, or good ole’ fashioned email.

By alerting your employees every time that you commence a search for a new teammate, you’d be amazed to see how many people share that information with their networks.

Keep in mind, 93 % of your employees are looking for opportunities to help you, themselves, or their friends.

Make them aware when you’re hiring, and at the very least, give them a forward-able link that they can share.

3 – Make it easy for your employees to make referrals.

It’s well known within the marketing community that for every additional piece of information you ask a prospect to provide in a form, the fewer responses you get.

The same rings true when asking your employees to refer potential hires.

Instead of asking your employees to fill out a detailed form, navigating a complicated recruiting process that requires an engineering degree, a blood sample and a credit check to successfully hit “submit”, ask your employees to make referrals through a very simple, and specific channel…

Via email introduction.

Pick an internal champion – whether it be your CXO, your primary people leader, or your hiring managers, and ask your employees to make a simple email introduction to the person that is driving your hiring process.

As much as we all get too much email, part of the job as a leader of an organization is to do the right thing, and being responsive when their people put their neck out and give their props to another human being is the right thing… every time.

It’s easy for anyone to ignore the sales pitch emails from strangers, but any leader worth their salt knows that when an employee speaks up and says “Hey! This person is awesome and you should talk to them!”, chances are, they are worth having a conversation with.

Trust your leaders to manufacture time to have those conversations.

They are worth it.

4 – Make it easy for the people your employees refer.

When your employees put their neck out and make a referral, an invisible process commences.

This process is a process of expectation, and exists only in the eyes of the referring party, and their referral.

Long story short, if one of your employees – your proven investments, someone that you believe in enough to secure their commitment in exchange for X dollars per month, speaks up and says “Hey! This person is awesome!” – they expect you to acknowledge them, and engage in a conversation with the person they referred.

Sure, there will be times when employees refer people that are not obvious matches to the jobs that you’re hiring for, but by committing to having at least an introductory conversation with every referral your employees make, you show your employees, and the people that they refer that you care.

By committing to providing each and every referred job applicant with an outstanding candidate experience, your employees will continue to make more referrals in time.

As human beings, we’re masters at identifying patterns.

The long and the short of it, if you want to generate more employee referrals, the key is to get out of the mindset of what is easier for you as a CXO, Hiring Manager or Human Resources professional and get into the mindset of what’s easier for your employees and their referrals.

I’m not suggesting that you loosen up your requirements, nor am I suggesting that each person your employees refer will be a match.

I am however suggesting that your employees are your greatest opportunity to differentiate your organization, and your employees are in control of whether or not they amplify your message.

Hiring great people doesn’t have to be hard, and your employees are the key to making hiring easier.

If you make it easy for them to help you, they will.


* This stat may or may not be true. I’m going with my gut on this one.

** Assuming of course they are not already rewarding employees financially to participate in their employee referral program.

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