Individuals who have been personally recommended by an employee not only tend to stay longer in their positions, but they are generally happier, and more efficient. This is because there is a better chance that this individual is a good fit within your existing company culture, and there is a strengthened sense of camaraderie and an established support system between colleagues. 

When the economy is good, and both vacancies and unemployment rates are low, it is natural for HR departments to focus their attention on other things. However, referral programs are often one of the strongest assets available to your hiring process, and something that you should be tapping into at all times.  

That said, not all referrals are created equal. Keep in mind the following questions to ensure that the highest quality referrals make it to the top of your applicant pool. 

#1: What’s the Referral Relationship? 

There is a big difference between an individual who worked directly under one of your employees in a previous position, and a friend-of-a-friend from college. When a referral comes in, make sure that the employee is clear about their relationship. How well do they actually know this person? Can they speak directly to the individual’s professional conduct? What about their communication skills? Remember, first-degree referrals equal first-rate referrals. Second or third-degree referrals should have no real advantage over the rest of your applicant pool. 

#2: What’s the Referral’s Current Status? 

Just because an individual is not actively looking for a new position doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be considered as a candidate. That being said, it is to your advantage to know the referral’s current status. If they are actively looking for a new position, their timetable will likely be much shorter than if they are not. The most effective incentives may also be different. Are they unsatisfied with their current company’s structure or workload? If so, they’ll likely be swayed by the promise of particular accounts or day-to-day responsibilities. If they are otherwise happy in their current position, you may need to “sweeten the pot.” In this situation, focus on your unique company perks and unparalleled benefits. 

#3: What Do they Know About Your Company Culture? 

Think about the employee making the referral: What is their personality like? What do they contribute to your workplace culture? How would you rank their communication and collaboration skills? This will give you a sense of what you can expect from their referral. Obviously this is not an exact science—everyone is different—but it can be a good indication. Beyond that, you should also ask your employee directly: How well do you think this referral would fit in? Would he or she work well with so-and-so team or client? 

Are You Making the Most out of Your Referral Program? 

Referrals can be a hugely valuable resource for your company, both now and in the future. Make sure that you are effectively identifying the strongest referrals, and not spending too much time or energy on the weaker ones. Communicate with your employees so they know that their recommendations are important, but also be clear about exactly what it is you are looking for. 

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