If you ask any talent acquisition leader to tell you the one thing they always want more of they’ll likely say referral hires! Referral hires are considered the gold standard of hiring by almost everyone in the organization from HR to the CEO.
For the last decade, the talent acquisition industry made it its mission to point this out at every possible chance. Arguably, it’s now a given in the recruiting industry that referral hires are the best hires.
I say referral hires are the gold standard simply because this post isn’t about the advantages or disadvantages of referral hires. It’s about how we can get more! So, I’ll assume, if you want more referral hires, you think they’re good.
The way talent acquisition typically gets employee referrals
Let’s look at how 99.9% of talent acquisition pros currently get referral hires. There are three basic options:
1. You have a referral program.
The details of this program are probably printed on a poster in your break room, or posted on your company intranet site. There are rules and payouts. Pretty straightforward stuff.
The moment you roll this program out, it begins to die. It's forgotten about until you hire the friend of one of your employees, who will then come to you looking for a referral bonus, because, they’ll tell you, they actually told their friend to apply with you.
2. Your recruiters "accidently" get a referral from an employee.
An employee emails your talent acquisition staff to let them know they have a friend, relative, or an associate who's looking for a job and attach a resume. You weren’t trying to get a referral, it just found you!
3. A candidate takes pity on you.
You're speaking to a candidate who's not interested in your position, and you have a really strong recruiter who actually asks the question, “Do you know anyone else who is looking?”, to which the candidate replies with a name. This actually happens; 17 percent of the time this question is asked.
The way talent acquisition should get employee referrals
Here are the steps you should be following, and the one "question" you should ask that will double your referral hires:
Step 1: Say “Give me the name of someone you worked with at (X) who you thought was really good.”
I know, I know! It’s a statement, not a question. But it serves our purpose of replacing the crappy question your people are using right now!
Step 2: Shut up! Then wait and write down the name they give you.
Step 3: Call the person whose name you were given.
That’s it! I can’t believe I give this gold out for free.
Why this approach works
Here’s the deal. When you ask someone "who do you know who’s looking", you’re actually giving them the perfect out. “Oh, I don’t know anyone who is looking. Thanks, bye-bye.”
When you ask someone to give you the name of someone they work with, or worked with, at a certain company, they don’t have an out! What are they going to say, “I don’t know of one name of anyone else that I worked with”? They would sound like an idiot.
If they say "No", there's an easy retort for the recruiter, “Look, all I need is a name, it’s my entire job to find people. I found you. The only way I can find others is by someone like you giving me a name. That person might not have interest in us, or what we have, but it’s up to them to decide that.”
Change the way you talk about referral hires
The reality is, 50 percent of the time people will give you the name of someone when specifically asked, without even balking.
No one asks them in this manner, so they're actually caught off guard, and usually just blurt out a name.
People like to share positive stuff. Giving the name of someone you thought was, or is, a rock star, is a positive thing.
You don’t need to offer more money. You don’t need new posters. You don’t need a new program or a piece of software. You just need to change your language.
Your turn: What tried and true tactics do you have for boosting employee referrals?