‘Who Do You Know?’ Is the ‘Post and Pray’ of Employee Referral Programs

ere-falllogo-facebookAt the Fall ERE Conference, Sean Rehder and Craig Campbell shared the secrets of their employee referral program. I was excited to see how they had applied some of the same principles that I had used in life insurance sales over a decade ago.

Before I joined the recruiting industry I sold life insurance and investments. I spent many nights sitting across the table from young families and business owners talking about their finance and insurance needs. I learned very quickly that referral business was the secret to success. I also learned that asking, “Who do you know?” didn’t get me very many names. To get more referrals, I had to feed my clients names, ask how well they knew the people, then ask if they would mind if I called and said we had worked together.

During the process, I was assuming they would help me, and in the process, I made it easy for them to do so. This broke down barriers and increased the number of referrals I received from each of my clients.

As to how I got the names I shared with them — if I were meeting a couple at their house, I would look up their neighbor’s names at the local tax office or central appraisal district. If they were business owners, I would ask about people they were pictured with at chamber of commerce mixers or about their competitors (these were my first sourcing activities; I had no idea where it would eventually lead me).

Below are the steps of Sean and Craig’s process:

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  1. Start connecting to employees on LinkedIn .
  2. Graph the network of the employees and start mapping their connections. Sean and Craig demonstrated how they added the connections of 125 employees of Dolby Laboratories to their sourcing CRM tool. After completing the process, the team had over 52,000 new leads, which included 10,900 executives, 5,330 engineers, and 2,775 candidates who were in Dolby’s top 10 target companies.
  3. After gathering the names, they introduce the referral network to the employees who are connected to the potential candidates. They ask the employees how well they know them, if they would recommend them as a potential employee, and then ask them how they want the referral to take place.

What Sean and Craig want you to remember about employee referral programs:

  • Talent acquisition must do heavy lifting for the employees.
  • We need to direct-source employee networks, instead of using what they call the referral post-and-pray approach.
  • Pay a small referral bonus to anyone who facilitates an introduction.
  • Give employees multiple options for introductions
    • I will forward a LinkedIn request from the recruiter to the potential candidate.
    • I will provide you with the potential candidate’s contact information.
    • I will email the potential candidate and copy the recruiter.
    • I will call them first, then the recruiter can call them.

So, start using your sourcing team to boost your employee referrals immediately. In the process, be sure to make it easy for the employees who know the candidates you source to help.

Jeremy Roberts, SPHR, is VP, Customer Experience at HiringSolved. He is the previous Editor of SourceCon. Prior to joining the ERE Media team, he spent over a decade working as a recruiter, sourcer, and sourcing manager. This time was spent in diverse environments, including third party agency settings (retained and contingent), recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) providers, and internal corporate HR departments. His previous employers include the MHA Group, Ajilon Finance, Korn Ferry Futurestep, Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, and Randstad Sourceright, US. He resides in Corinth, TX with his wife and 3 children.


5 Comments on “‘Who Do You Know?’ Is the ‘Post and Pray’ of Employee Referral Programs

  1. Really good. I think that ER should be part of the onboarding process: Get the newbie to write down the names of people s/he think are good, ask them to open up their LI networks, and make sure that each step of the process is “gamified”(the further the referral goes, the more the referrer gets). Bill Boormann believes that referrals should be rewarded, not hires. Finally, there are tools that will automate the process for the company.


    Keith “Still Waiting to Help Set Up Employee Referral Con” Halperin

  2. Good article – Thanks.

    Keith I fully agree that onboarding is a great opportunity.

    I always like what Bill Boorman has to say but not sure I agree with him on rewarding referrals vs hires. Why not reward referrals and hires?

  3. @ Gareth. Thanks, Bill might be saying “both” and not “instead” l as you are saying; I wasn’t sure.

    Keith “‘And’ Not ‘Or” Halperin

  4. The “Share job with social network” button can be just as bad as asking “Who do you know?”.

    Although it’s easy, asking your employees to SPAM their FB, LI, Twitter feeds with random job links is not proper social recruiting.

    A targeted, personal, relevant 1 x 1 message to a social connection is always more effective.

  5. A communication mismatch between employer/referrer as a group and job seekers as another group is the major issue facing most employee referral programs, regardless of incentive or any other policies. Lack of access to each other in a straightforward way is the major hurdle. Wadding the online social networks is no fun for either employees or job seekers. Experiencing that in my own career, I started a simpler approach at http://www.careeref.com to fix that for any party still in the suffering. Users can try out the live demo there to see how it fixes their issues.

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