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Segment Team Photo - Employee Referrals

Segment was founded in 2012 by MIT undergraduates who left MIT to join YCombinator. Now, Segment has over 7,000 customers and is one of the most effective ways for businesses to collect and send customer data on the web.

Segment doubled its headcount to 120 last year, despite being headquartered in San Francisco, one of the most competitive talent markets. Segment has scaled steadily, due in large part to its investment in Human Resources (and recruiting) as a strategic business partner. In late 2015, the team hired Adriana Roche to run HR and build the programs and processes needed to grow the Segment team to support growing customer demands.

Adriana quickly realized that Segment employees, users, and investors were passionate about the product and that many current employees had been referred by an enthusiastic employee or community member. So, her team built a formal referral program to support the Segment’s beliefs: the importance of a sense of “Tribe” (a core value) and the power of community referrals.

Drafted caught up with Adriana Roche to hear how her team created the referral program, and how Segment maintains a 40% referral hires at scale.

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Drafted: How did you first launch referrals at Segment?

Adriana: We launched a formal referral program at Segment after we conducted a hiring survey shortly after I joined. We learned that most of our 50 employees were referred to Segment. As a someone with a recruiting background, I had a large network that I could tap to for referrals but this would be exponential if we did the same for every one of my teammates.

Our team was already in support of referrals: Recruiting was a major priority, referrals were a natural extension of our core values and a major part of how we had built the team to-date.

Drafted: How did you get people excited about referring their friends to Segment?

Adriana: There are a few ways, but most important was providing an awesome experience during the hiring process for both the candidate and the referrer. We always want people to walk out of here feeling like they were treated with respect, that they had a good time, and learned something. We also give the referrer updates and feedback, so that they know where we are in the process and, if applicable, why a referral candidate did not progress.

Additionally, we promote referrals regularly as part of our program.

Drafted: What are some examples of how you promote referrals at Segment?

Adriana: A few examples are:

  • Every week, someone from our team highlights a “Job of the Week” in our company meeting, with 3 bullet points of what it takes to be successful in that role
  • We then send a follow-up email to the team with a recap
  • We have a Referral Leaderboard of who you referred and how far they made it in the funnel
  • We run contests with a “big carrot” to keep employees talking about referrals

Drafted: Do you provide rewards for referral hires?

Adriana: We don’t provide cash rewards, but instead run things, like contests. Next year, we need to do so much hiring that I’m considering giving away a trip to Hawaii as a yearlong contest. I like to give people a North Star that’s kind of ridiculous to aim for and keeps people talking.

Drafted: What’s the coolest part of the program, or a referral story that you’re proud of?

Adriana: Oh, we have this incredible Referral Tree at Segment that really illustrates how important referrals have been in building our team. My teammate Courtney started building it after we sent out our first hiring survey, and it’s just evolved into this awesome part of the team and office.

It’s front and center when guests come in so you can trace who’s referred who from inside and outside the company. Every time employees walk by it, I can hear them saying ‘I need to make another referral.’ It’s brilliant.

Drafted: I’ve seen pictures. It’s so cool. Who’s the best referrer on your team?

Adriana: Actually, one of earliest investors is!

Drafted: That’s great that you track outside referrals. So many teams don’t realize that many of their referrals come from the community around them. Any recommendations for talent leaders looking to start their own referral program?

Adriana: One recommendation that I have, and something that we do every quarter at Segment, is ask how likely employees are to refer someone to Segment. It is a good litmus test of the health of the company, and something that I highly recommend to help other teams get a feel for the temperature of their culture.

We couldn’t agree more. Great suggestion, Adriana.

Did you know that Segment is hiring? If you’re interested in working for a culture that values it’s Tribe, find your next job at Segment. Adriana is hiring for roles in San Francisco and New York.

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