What if there was a way to earn hundreds, or even thousands, of extra dollars at work with no need to reach a certain quota, exercise stock options, or get a promotion? Well, good news — there is. Offering referral bonuses — monetary rewards given to employees who recommend a successfully-hired job candidate — has become commonplace in the corporate world.
Companies often find their best hires from internal referrals, so it’s in their best interest to incentivize employees to tap their networks for top talent — and that often means hefty paychecks for employees who are successful in doing so. So if your company has a program like this and you’re not taking advantage of it already, it’s high time that you did. After all, it’s a win-win-win situation: Your recruiter fills their requisition, your friend or former colleague gets a great new job, and you get some extra cash and the chance to work with an amazing new colleague.
But there’s an art to referring candidates to open positions at your company. You can’t just send dozens of recommendations for everyone you’ve ever met — that’s both an inefficient use of your time and a good way to get on a recruiter’s bad side. If you truly want to succeed, there are a few things you need to know first. We recently sat down with Glassdoor Senior Talent Acquisition Partner Jamie Hichens, who shared some of her top tips for making your company’s referral program work for you — here’s what she recommends.
1. Get the Word Out
In order to get people interested in a job, you, of course, have to let them know about the opportunity in the first place. Hichens recommends a few sources in particular to advertise open positions at your company. “Sending an email to friends is a good way to start,” she advises. Describing what type of person you’re looking for and then asking if they know anyone who would be a good fit is a good move since friends or former colleagues will often “be thoughtful if you’ve worked with them in the past… they’ll know your industry and what you’re targeting.”
Beyond that, “I think it’s definitely smart to post to alumni pages. I see that a lot [at Glassdoor], and we get really great people that way,” Hichens says. You can also post to your personal networks like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, “although you should expect that [some] unqualified people will reach out — so it’s up to you to weed through those.”
If you’re really hungry to make some successful referrals, you may even consider scouring LinkedIn to find people with the experience and skill set needed for the roles, but before doing so, Hichens recommends getting in contact with the recruiter first. “Check with a recruiter before you do anything,” she says. “If you haven’t checked with them to find out the exact specs that they’re looking for, it can come across as stepping on their toes. Recruiters love help, but that’s their job.”
2. Screen Your Candidates
No matter how bad you want to score a referral bonus, you shouldn’t take an approach of “throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks,” Hichens says. If you do, you might earn a reputation as someone whose referrals can’t be trusted — so when you finally do have a great candidate in the pipeline, recruiters won’t be as inclined to take your word for it. Before officially referring someone, look at their resume first to make sure they’re qualified on at least a basic level. If you really want to go the extra mile, try chatting with them on the phone.
“You’ll get more credibility if you are actually sending people you’ve at least spoken with,” Hichens says. “Look for: 1) Why they’re interested in the company 2) Why they’re interested in the position 3) Why they think they are a fit and 4) [Whether] they sound like they’d be a culture add.”
3. Pitch Your Candidates
If you want a recruiter to take a serious look at a candidate you’re referring, it definitely helps to sell them a little bit. An email with “Take a look at this person I’ve never met or talked to before” is much less compelling to a recruiter than a thoughtfully crafted recommendation.
“The [notes] that I really like seeing are ‘This is a former colleague of mine. I’ve seen them in action — these are their strengths. I think they’d be a fit for our company because of XYZ.’ A lot of times we get something like ‘This is my friend’s friend so I don’t really know them,’ but if we have some context and you’ve seen them in action in the workplace, that carries more weight,” Hichens says.
If you haven’t worked with them before, however, just do the best that you can to describe the impression that you’ve gotten so far. “[You can say] I don’t actually know this person personally, but I got on a five-minute call with them and they sound interested and like they’d be a fit from what I can tell, but I’ll let you take it from here,” Hichens suggests.
4. Be Helpful, But Balanced
It’s natural to want to set up the candidate that you’re bringing in for success, but you need to make sure that you’re not giving them an unfair advantage or sharing insider information. “You as the employee can give insight into what it’s like working there and a little bit about what you know (if anything) about the team and hiring manager, but [candidates] should defer to the recruiter to give them interview prep tips,” Hichens advises.
“Another thing that’s a nice touch is if they do come in to interview, offer to say ‘Hi’ to them while they’re here so they can see a familiar face. But be communicative [with the recruiter and hiring team] that you’re planning to do that so you’re not stepping on their toes,” Hichens adds.
5. Don’t Be Too Pushy
Getting a referral bonus is great, but it’s important not to unfairly pressure either the recruiter or the candidate — you need to make sure it’s truly a good fit for all parties involved. When it comes to dealing with the recruiting team, that means not pestering them constantly.
“Don’t be too hands-on — let the process happen,” Hichens says.
Similarly, you don’t want to push the candidate to accept a position too much. Starting a new job is a major decision, and is ultimately up to them.
“Be mindful, because at the end of the day… convincing someone to take a role at a company that’s not a fit for them will bite you harder than a referral bonus is worth.”