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Fresh ideas for your employee referral program

Christine Del Castillo
Christine Del Castillo

Former Community Manager at Workable specialized in employee experience, talent brands and our event series, Workable Ideas.

If you don’t have a process for collecting candidate referrals, here’s how you can build one in five steps. If you do have an employee referral program but it’s underperforming, we’ve written up four mini-case studies, each featuring concepts for you to try. Here’s how you can go above and beyond giving successful referrers an oversized check or a coffee shop gift card.

Who’s got my Head-Hunter mug?

Tiered rewards are a nice way to drum up more employee referrals from your networks. Here’s an employee referral idea we like: Increasing dollar amounts for 1) referring candidates who make the shortlist, 2) referring hired candidates, and 3) referring hired candidates who complete their three-month trial period. An even better version comes from Activision. This famous video game company mixes up the prizes. If you refer a candidate who gets an interview, you get a “Head-Hunter” mug. If your candidate receives an offer, you get a sweater. If your candidate gets hired, you get compensation.

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Stealing hearts and taking names

Unforgettable hospitality to guests and to each other is built around two imperatives at Virgin Hotels. “Make love” means being generous with your time and attention. “Steal hearts” means being attentive to the clues and cues guests leave and acting upon them. All employees know that this exemplary level of service is valued at Virgin Hotels, and when they spot this gold standard in another person they pass along a recruitment card. Naturally, it says “You’ve stolen our hearts.” Easy as a handshake and almost guaranteed to put a smile on the candidate’s face.

Beers for referred peers

At Salesforce, where referrals are their top channel for new hires, they host referral happy hours. Done right, events can be incredibly efficient. First, it’s an easy way to add more qualified candidates to your applicant pool. Second, your hiring team can glean lots of valuable information from meeting candidates in person prior to a formal interview. Finally, it’s a nice way to introduce candidates to your working environment and culture, especially for hiring managers who make a practice of including onboarding in the recruitment process.

“Aided recall” with super connectors

Every company has super connectors. At Google, recruiters pair up with their most connected staff members to hunt for promising candidates. First, they comb through their social networks. Then, they jog employees’ memories with the “aided recall” technique of giving them prompts. Big questions like “Who do you think we should hire?” are followed up with “Do you know anyone who would be a good salesperson in New York?” and “Who is the best finance person you ever worked with?” This tactic, coupled with email outreach, increased their referrals by more than a third. Well worth trying this external network strategy at your organization.

We scoured the web and our own contacts to find you easy, creative, and affordable referral ideas. But we’re always interested in hearing the latest and greatest recruiting strategies. What candidate referral ideas are working well for you? Tweet at us at @workable.

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