Earlier this year, we launched referralprograms.org as a free community resource to share data about referral programs. (Here’s a link to the announcement) Based on community contributions and other publicly available data, we surveyed 145 companies to create a benchmarking report for referral programs. We’re kind of obsessed with referrals…
It’s the classic Catch 22 situation hiring teams find themselves in.
You have a referral program in place with a bonus included for your open software engineering and account executive roles. After launching the program you start seeing an overwhelming boost in referrals but those account executive referrals are not up to par. It’s almost a complete waste of time to even sift through them.
Everyone wants more referrals and wants to encourage their colleagues to make them, but what do you do if you are getting too many referrals?
If you are feeling overwhelmed by referrals there might be an underlying cause.
Most of the time too many referrals means you are receiving too many LOW-quality referrals. Like the ones for that account executive role. If every referral was strong you probably wouldn’t feel like you were wasting your time sifting through them.
Here’s the hard part. How do you combat low-quality referrals without discouraging people from making referrals in the first place?
The best way to challenge the quality of your referrals is by getting to the root of what is making them low quality in the first place. These are the top 3 approaches we’ve seen our customers succeed with over and over.
1) Address the referral quality directly.
Transparency with your colleagues can go a long way. As Eric Putkonen, author of “Don’t You Wish Employee Referrals Were Better?” from RecruitingBlogs.com observed,
Especially as our employees are making referrals that match the requirements, but their referrals are never interviewed…and they are wondering why. Without more information, they will become discouraged and stop making referrals.
I don’t recommend telling everyone their account executive referrals are bad, but there are ways you can help them identify where they might be going wrong.
Instead, ask them to rank how likely they think the candidate could receive an offer.
Just like we don’t want recruiters to post and pray, we don’t want colleagues to refer and pray.
Submitting more referrals doesn’t help their chances of getting that referral bonus. It’s actually hurting their chances.
Or create a referral limit. Give your colleagues 3 referrals a month of only their top 3 people for any open position. Not just that account executive one. That referral quality will go way up.
When it comes to referrals, it’s worth getting creative and your colleagues will appreciate any direction you give them regarding how they should be vetting their networks. Sometimes all people need are a few pro tips and then they’ll be referring the quality people you were looking for in no time.
2) Associate an open role with the referral.
Challenging your colleagues to make referrals associated with an open role at your company will help them be better vetters.
It’s not enough for them to comb through their network, find someone who was great at sales at their last company, send the referral over, only for the hiring team to get it and have to table it because there aren’t any open sales roles.
But if they know a software engineer from their last company that could potentially fit the criteria of an open engineering role at your company, this could challenge them to look a little deeper at their friends’ background before formally referring.
It’s really easy to refer great people, but it’s hard to refer great people at the right time. And when it comes to hiring, timing is everything.
3) Get confirmed interest from the candidate.
This can be a crucial factor when prioritizing referrals. There are a couple of very low touch changes you can make to capture this information.
The first, and easiest, option would be to add a question on your referral form asking the referrer whether or not this person is already interested or if they’ve talked to them about your company.
Even having that question on the referral form will encourage them to talk to their friend and find out their interest before officially submitting the referral. This can help weed out referrals that have no interest and saves the hiring team valuable time.
Imagine flipping through those lackluster account executive referrals, to come across someone who is actively interested in your company and meets some key qualifications.
Another option is to ask employees for introductions – the willingness of an employee to make an introduction is an indicator of how strongly they believe it’s a useful intro. You can make it really easy for them with pre-templated language and a 1-click intro tool.
We’ve found that asking for introductions can increase your response rate by 80%.
These 3 approaches to increase the quality of your referrals can significantly optimize your referral program. An excess of referrals or too many referrals isn’t the dream we’ve all envisioned. The goal is to have a strong pipeline of quality referrals that are a good fit for your open roles, already interested in your company, and your colleagues can introduce you to them directly. Now that’s the dream.