How to Avoid Employee Referral Mistakes

December 30, 2019
Aubrie Przybysz
Marketing at Drafted

What you are about to read is a recruiter's nightmare - we're talking about employee referral mistakes. Cue the Twilight Zone theme music. Your employee referral program shouldn’t be scary. It’s one of the most valuable pieces of your candidate pipeline. If not one of the highest converting sources of hiring at your company. Everyone loves referrals and people love making them… until someone starts getting spooked. Does this sound familiar? Referrals are a black hole. I have too many referrals. I don’t get enough referrals. I don’t have a big enough budget.

Common employee referral mistakes

The Blackhole Effect

What is it?

After someone at your company submits a referral but doesn’t hear back about what happens to that referral. Today when we submit most things we get some sort of notification right away. Think about it this way, if you placed an online order and then didn’t get an email that your order was received or even that it was shipped you’d probably stress out about it right?

How can I avoid it?

There are two solutions to recommend here. The first more time-consuming solution is to be diligent about following up with your referrers. It may feel like it’s slowing down your rhythm but can pay off big in the long run. People really appreciate knowing what’s happening with a referral, be it because they know them really well or they’re in it for the bonus. A slightly better approach is having a tool that sends your referrers automated candidate updates. They’ll get notified every time their referral moves on to a new stage and you don’t have to keep circling back with them. Saves you time and provides transparency to the referrer.

The Ferrari Problem

What is it?

Yes, sometimes you can have too many referrals. It happens. It’s one of those be careful what you wish for moments. But in reality when you get down to the root of it, the issue isn’t the quantity, it’s the quality of the referrals. Referrals that aren’t tied to a specific open role or referrals that are completely passive candidates. Candidates that have no idea they’re being referred.

How can I avoid it?

There are a few measures you can take to really boost the quality of the referrals people submit. The first and easiest place to start is requiring referrers to make a referral to a specific open role. Most referral tools have this as a requirement. Next would be to address the referral quality. A way to do this is to help people walk through how to qualify the referral when they’re submitting it. Tell them to ask themselves how well they know this person. On a scale of 1 to 7, 7 being you know them really well, where does this person fall? Could you make an introduction between the candidate and the recruiter? Or require them to notify the person being referred ahead of submitting the referral.

The Bare Cupboard

What is it?

There are times when you see a lull in your employee referral program. You may even be wondering where that consistent flow went. Why are people suddenly making fewer referrals? To be honest, there could be a myriad of factors. One that we see over and over again is that people don’t know who they know. They aren’t sure who could actually be a fit for the open roles at your company.

How can I avoid it?  

Making a weekly reminder of what jobs you have open with a few bullet points about the type of candidate you’re looking for could be a helpful start. Investing in a tool like Drafted can help create a bigger and more scalable boost in referrals. It will allow people to see who in their network matches up to the open jobs at a glance, taking all of the guesswork out of it. And saving them a ton of time in the process.

The Bank Breaker  

What is it?

Not every recruiting team is going to be allocated a budget large enough to award $4k+ referral bonuses. There’s always fear that the referral bonus you offer won’t be big enough and people won’t think it’s worth it to make the referral.

How can I avoid it?

Instead of thinking of a referral bonus as an incentive, think of it as a thank you. That can come in many forms. If you don’t have the right budget to do monetary rewards, be creative. Dinner with the CEO, Amazon gift card, a desk plant, a donation to charity. To get a feel for what some other companies are doing, is a great resource.  

Feeling less scared of referral mistake?

These employee referral mistake can quickly turn into nightmares but you don't need to worry. You can face them head-on and use them to help you create a better employee referral program. Whether it’s closing the feedback loop between referrer and recruiter or keeping people informed on what jobs need referrals the most, these are just a few things you can do to help you face any monster that tries to stand in your way of your next great hire.

About Drafted

Your company network is your biggest competitive advantage when it comes to building best-in-class referral programs and making great hires.

Create your free account to join companies like and Karat who use Drafted to power their referral hiring.