How To Pop Bottlenecks In Your Referral Strategy

Four strategies for removing barriers and opening yourself to more opportunities for candidate referrals

A well-oiled referral machine should keep your talent pool hitting the brim with strong candidates for in-demand roles.


Use these tips to understand where you might be stopping a wave of referrals from joining your roster and clear the way for stronger referral management.

1. Make referrals inevitable.

Step into the shoes of your most recent hire. On a scale of 1-5 stars, how would that person rate the candidate experience with you?


How job-seekers (and employees) feel about their experience isn’t simply fleeting feedback or a Facebook rating. It has a profound effect on their likelihood of referring candidates your way.


How can you ensure you’re delivering the caliber of experience that nets referrals? Do a candidate experience audit. Walk through your last few hires and write down each stage of your process, from the candidate’s perspective, including (but certainly not limited to) each touch point from start to finish; how often you had to be poked for updates; how quickly you answered questions; how many exclamation points in that final email between you and your new-hire.


To create something they’ll talk about, you need to routinely deliver an experience that makes them say, whoa. Take an honest look at your communication gaps (fill them), identify your big wins (replicate them) and interview recent hires to help you brainstorm ways to keep giving your hiring process that whoa-factor. And do this audit regularly. Not checking your candidate experience and hiring process is a slippery slope – and a fast way to cut off your referrals at the source.

2. Ask – and be specific about what you’re asking for.

Go ahead and get that cringe out of the way. Because it’s your last one. Most people are uncomfortable, at first, asking for referrals. But you can’t get what you don’t ask for. Step into that discomfort for a minute and understand it.


Are you afraid of being rejected or judged for building toward your success as a recruiter? Or, deep down, do you fear that you don’t deserve that referral for some reason?


If you’re taking step one, here (that amazing candidate experience), seriously, you’ll have an easier time getting over the hump – because you’ll have no question you deserve it. The longer you delay asking, the more potential referrals you’ll lose in this bottleneck.


What can also help your success rate with asking is clarity. Recruiters’ biggest missed opportunities come from not being clear about the kind of candidates, skills or introductions they’re looking for. Skip the general “if you know anyone who’d be a good fit” request. It puts the onus on your network to figure out if they’re doing it right. Spell out what your ideal candidate or introduction looks like – and provide feedback to fine-tune.


Finally, time-check when you’re asking for referrals. Are you waiting until you’re desperate for a certain skill set – or are you indoctrinating candidates and employees during interviews and onboarding into the culture of sharing? If you’re regularly delivering an amazing candidate experience, it’s never too early to ask.

3. Make it easy to refer people.

It may seem like a given, but how many referral requests have you seen (or made) that had steps to take, protocols to follow, paperwork to complete, eligibility requirements to meet, hoops to jump through? We like to call that referral strategy “shooting yourself in the foot.”


In fact, let this point be a lesson for anything you’re asking someone to do for you. The easier you make it to refer someone, the more likely they are to do it. The fewer questions they’ll wonder. The fewer excuses they’ll make.


You can start by minimizing the information you’re asking for. Are you requiring a full resume, cover letter and intro for a referral to be legit? Or are you getting a hot tip with contact info and taking it from there?


Outlining the minimum viable actions your contacts will take can maximize your referral roster. Enabling – and encouraging – social sharing of jobs and referral opportunities is fast, easy way for your contacts to empower your recruiting efforts with network effects. And investing in the right technology that makes it easy as a swipe or tap to share jobs can multiply your chances of netting great referrals.

4. Show your appreciation.

If you’re not showing your referral sources appreciation with a simple and authentic thank-you note, you’re missing out on opportunities to get more referred candidates and to build referral champions. Why? Who wants to help someone who can’t even take a few seconds to say thanks?


Let your sources know – loud and clear – that they are helping you and their friend(s) by sharing jobs on social and sending the right people your way. No need to write Moby Dick about it. A quick and friendly note will do the trick. In fact, you can write it once (with feeling!), set it up in your engagement workflow and never be that thankless recruiter again.


Communication is key to making your referral sources feel appreciated and engaged with the process. If you’re not delivering regular updates on the progress of their candidates, you’re creating another potential bottleneck.


ERE found that keeping referral sources in the dark for more than 24-36 hours can make them question their referral and get nervous about what’s going to happen with their friend. It can even stop them from making referrals to you ever again.


Investing in referral management can automate these touch points and make referral status updates accessible on-demand. If you’re not already sending thank-yous and status updates, it’s probably not because you’re the thankless recruiter. You’re probably a busy one.


Responsibly automating these communications can empower you to deliver the same caliber of experience to your referrals that your candidates can’t stop talking about.


Being aware of when and where you need to communicate and what you need to say will help you build an automated workflow that will give you more time to reach out to your referrals and build your next wave into the talent pool.

Humanizing The Candidate Journey | WorkLLama

Humanizing The Candidate Journey | WorkLLama

DOWNLOAD THE EBOOK Humanizing the Candidate Journey How to build a holistic, high-tech experience that…

Guide To Viral Recruiting | WorkLLama

Guide To Viral Recruiting | WorkLLama

DOWNLOAD THE EBOOK The Guide to Viral Recruiting Learn how to turn referral requests into…

Elevating Talent Acquisition from Transactional to Transformational

Elevating Talent Acquisition from Transactional to Transformational

RECORDED WEBINAR HR Exchange Live: Recruiting and Talent Acquisition Session: “Elevating Talent Acquisition from Transactional to…

Share With Your Network: