Employee Referrals Feeling Inconsistent or Nonexistent? Here's How to Fix It

Aubrie Przybysz
Marketing at Drafted

When it comes to hiring, timing is everything.

How many stories have you heard about the right person getting hired because they were in the right place at the right time? Or even more common, the right person was referred at the right time.The story we don't hear is the story of the recruiter asking for people to send their best and brightest along for the open Product Manager role at their company and getting zilch. A big fat nada. Where are those referrals when you need them?


Or the even less popular story of getting irrelevant referrals when you have a full pipeline for the recs you're trying to close. The last thing you need or have time for is an inundation of referrals you didn't really want. No one likes hearing stories about having too many referrals, especially when they are in dire need of them for that Product Manager role. Ferrari problems right?

At the end of the day, we still love hiring referrals. Especially when the perfect one comes through for that elusive Product Manager. It's hard to deal with the uncertainty and luck involved.Here are the top four reasons you aren't getting referrals or getting them when you don't need them.

1) People have no time to think.

Experienced professionals have a network of 1000+ people. Family, friends, friends of friends, former colleagues, etc. It's an exhausting list. Frankly, people aren't waking up every day wanting to rack their brain for someone to refer for an open role. It takes a lot more work than they're willing to put in on a daily basis, which is why people don't make referrals at the frequency we expect.

2) People only respond to a request for help.

We love helping our friends, especially when they need help finding a new job. Nothing is more rewarding. When a friend comes to you asking for help you instinctively try to open all the doors you can for them. Maybe you send your friends' resume to a few places you know are hiring, but you may not know exactly what that employer is looking for - all you know is that you have a friend there that might be able to give them a shot. Then their resume becomes one of the many a recruiter most likely doesn't have a perfect fit for.

3) People don't naturally seek out friends who aren't looking for a job.

Passive candidates are some of the best candidates, and what the best recruiters pride themselves on. They may not be actively seeking a job, but they're so talented they're worth convincing. You never know when someone is ready to make their next move, even before they've expressed that to their friends. It takes some cajoling to get people to reach out to friends who seem to be perfectly happy in their current job. They usually won't do it on their own.

4) People need guidelines, not bonuses.

Don't get me wrong, having a referral bonus in place is great. The way you approach referral hiring matters more than you might expect. Relying on the bonus to drive referrals may end up giving you too many unwanted referrals. Imagine you are about to reach out to your colleagues asking them to take a moment to refer someone for your open Product Manager role. You say, "Hey guys, don't forget we have a $5k referral bonus for the Product Manager role! Refer your friends today!"... You're probably going to get an influx of referrals, but not always for the right reasons. Imagine instead if you said, "I need your help filling our open Product Manager role. We are looking for someone who has 3+ years of experience in any role, has worked at a start-up in a PM role before, and is ready to learn new stuff!" This gives your colleagues guidelines to easily filter their network with and you'll see much higher quality referrals.

Finding and sending referrals isn't always the clearest and easiest process for people. And the only way to start getting a consistent flow of referrals is by making the process as easy as possible.

Follow these 3 steps to simplify your referral hiring.

1) Give employees the tools for checking the relevance of their referral.

Great people you know off the top of your head aren’t always the best ones to refer. Many will slip through the memory cracks. What's even harder is having any idea if a person is relevant to the recruiting team’s needs. Having a tool like Drafted gives employees the power to see their network at a glance, search for someone they have in mind, and easily see the relevant people in their network that match the company's open roles.

2) Promote a job of the week.

Promoting a single job gives people the opportunity to focus their referral efforts for the week. Instead of generally thinking about great people, they'll think about great product managers that they could refer. Plus most people have no idea what roles are open at the company. Drafted lets you set a priority job which will prioritize that role for the suggested referral matches employees are checking out when they're inside Drafted. It’s like giving your entire company laser focus on helping fill the candidate pipeline where you need it most.

3) Scan employee's networks and proactively ask for the referrals you want.

Don’t wait for referrals to come to you.. Especially when you can proactively reach out to them about their friends. Imagine looking through a list of recommendations for a Product Manager role and finding someone you really like who's connected to your colleague, Taylor. Now you can go ask Taylor if they can make an introduction for you and help you get connected with that potential candidate.

Use these 3 pro tips to help optimize for the referrals you want. Too many referrals and no referrals are both a struggle. Set up your colleagues with tools that will help them identify the right people at the right time. Take the luck out of referrals and make it a strategic advantage. If you want to get lucky, you’d be better served going to Vegas.

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 Better.com and Karat who use Drafted to power their referral hiring.