How to get employee referrals

Understanding how fruitful employee referrals can be to a business is only the first step. Implementing your employee referral program requires a strong understanding of your business brand, staff behavior, and wise planning to make sure you’re giving yourself the best chances of success.

This article provides advice and a few tips on how to get the best from every opportunity.

Keep it consistent

There’s a lot to be said for fresh incentives and mixing up your methods, but you should also have a regular schedule for your program that your employees feel are part of their routine. 

Most humans thrive on routine and discipline—even when we say we don’t. It’s how we learn as children, and it’s how we feel safe as adults. If your program is too erratic, it will be confusing as to when or how to feed into it.

Change your rewards and promotional measures, by all means, but stick to regular announcements and consistent program integration to keep employees focussed and aware of the roles that need filling and who might make the most appropriate candidates.

Start as you mean to go on

We’ve heard that the most effective employee referral programs begin in a new acquisition’s first week.

Make it known right at the beginning and keep the updates coming—that way, your program becomes part of the company culture and automatically programmed into each employee.

Making the most of meetings

Take a moment at the end or during a suitable break in company meetings, to announce any updates or changes to your referral program. It’s a great opportunity to announce the most important roles still unfulfilled, as well as a little information about the type of candidate you’re looking for.

It’s also the perfect time to announce newly appointed roles and of the rewards and recognition for the employees who helped land the new candidates.

Organize events for high demand periods

A regular referral program schedule provides healthy reminders and conditioning, but when you need an opportunity to highlight something special, break the routine, and do something different.

A brainstorming session, a free lunch or drinks, allows you to create something unique that will stick in your employees’ heads by organizing a special event. If you create exclusive or unique rewards, you’ll also create an added incentive for them to provide the new team players that your company needs.

Employ your program on every rung of the ladder

Many executives and senior-level staff are acutely aware of the benefits of constructing the best team possible. That way, they’ve always got their ear to the ground. Referrals should happen at every level of the business and not just in the departments that require filled roles.

This will open more varied and wider-spread networks to your recruiters. The example set by senior-level staff will show the rest of the workforce how important it is to help the company create the perfect team.

Provide appropriate incentives

How we prefer to receive recognition or reward can be very different. Some of us thrive on praise, and others prefer to fly under the radar. Many will work harder for a financial bonus, yet others will disregard it without care.

Finding the best way to appeal to your employees’ staff hunting selves is down to you—but take it from us; it’s an immensely important part of your system.


Sometimes a public thank you is enough for those who attain validation through recognition to work that bit harder on what’s required of them. That same public thanks could be enough to motivate an observing team member into digging deeper into his own network of contacts for the same.

As well as announcing recognition at meetings and events, make sure it flows through internal emails, memos, and all of your recruitment updates.

Cash and reward alternatives

We’re not going to deny it—cold hard cash is a great motivator for the majority of your workers. You could consider a sliding pay scale for the lower to higher pay-grade positions. It might not even be the amount of cash that makes a difference—no point in over-rewarding if you don’t have to—just make sure the incentive is enough to produce some results.

Reward each referral

As well as rewarding the filling of the role, why not reward the referral itself with a smaller prize? Could you build towards the real bonus as the candidate progresses through the process? Something as simple as a gift card, or some time off in lieu, could be enough to boost referrals by a significant percentage.

Champion your champions

Make a leaderboard of your referring superstars. You can highlight what they’ve earned, too—that way; you’ll be presenting the pay-off to both those who crave material reward and recognition as incentives.

Make it easy for everyone

One of the biggest ways employees become disengaged from your referral program is to make too much fuss. Keep it as simple as possible at every step, so it doesn’t impact on their already busy schedules and social lives.

You need to keep it simple for candidates too. You could be missing out on a superb new acquisition if you make too much effort to apply, especially when considering those who weren’t looking for a new job. Pique their interest, create a contact, and worry about the rest later.

Create a template system

Create documentation with all the necessary contact points and template scripts and information about the roles you need to fill.

Your referrers aren’t as engaged in recruitment as you are, so don’t expect them to be. Provide some first point of contact copy—for email, social media posts, telephone conversations, etc.—that saves your employees the time it would take to scribe the perfect introduction themselves.

Keep everything simple

We’ve seen businesses cripple their programs by being too intense, too early. Don’t burden employees or candidates with lengthy forms to complete or resume requirements. In the beginning, get the basics and just that. By all means, offer both parties a chance to submit any additional information they want to, but don’t force it. Getting a contact is enough to get the ball rolling.

Train your team

If your program is going to feature the way you recruit regularly, why not put some time aside to show employees the best way to manage the process? You can use this time to introduce all the tools available and how to use them across each of their networks.

If time is a problem, why not create a standalone guide? You can email or provide handouts at the beginning of every outreach opportunity.

Utilize technology where appropriate

There is an abundance of software available for recruiters and referrers, so don’t let anything that streamlines or speeds up your process go to waste.

Alternatively, you might want to implement more bespoke that could help deliver recruits directly into your interview and selection processes. It could save a lot of time and additional resources over the long-term.

Finally, stay proactive 

When you’ve got a sound system in place, don’t sit back and think your work is done. Keeping your employees enthused and those candidates rolling in is an on-going challenge.

A well-organized employee referral program is an excellent way to train your staff into being your new army of agents. Streamlining it to maintain a steady flow of candidates should be your on-going mission

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