Most companies of any size have an employee referral program. Best in class programs provide 40% or more of their new hires through employee referrals. Many studies show that employee referral hires are a better culture fit, achieve productivity faster and stay longer than non-employee referral hires. However, there are 2 main flaws with almost every employee referral program, no matter its current results. referrals

1. Your employees don’t know what specific positions are available. They are focused on their own specific job in your organization and don’t watch your career site hourly/daily/weekly to see what new jobs are available. In large enterprise organizations, it is nearly impossible to keep up with the specific openings. When I was VP of Talent Acquisition at SAIC, we had over 3,000 positions open at any one time and I couldn’t possible know what they were. I couldn’t expect individual employees to stay on top of that list.
So, a few things typically happen:
• A small number of employees refer a large number of candidates in a similar skill set because they know that you are always looking for those skills. You thus have a large number of candidates, but in just a few skill sets.
• You receive referrals from a large number of employees, very few of whom have the background/skills you need (I call these “hairdresser and lawn boy” referrals). These referrals just create more noise in your recruiting process and more work for your recruiters.
• You receive very few referrals, thus decreasing the impact of your program.

2. Your employees don’t know who in their network has the skills you need. Think about your own professional network. Even though most of those individuals are connected to you via LinkedIn, do you really know what their marketable skills are? You may have worked with Sally 5 years ago when she was a young account rep, have you kept up with her career enough to know that she is now a successful account director leading her company in repeat business? Probably not. Even if you do know what Sally’s been up to, at the point that a senior account director position becomes available at your company, and you find out about it, do you immediately think of Sally? No, you spend less than 5 minutes thinking about potential candidates, no one comes to mind, and you move on with your day. Thus, you have large quantities of positions that receive no quality referrals because your employees can’t know the skills of everyone in their network.

How can you solve these 2 problems?

First, you can come to the panel session that I’m facilitating at LinkedIn’s Talent Connect 2014 – “Relationships Matter: Developing a Productive Employee Referral Program.” TA leaders from Cisco, Appirio, Owens Corning and SapientNitro will share their secrets for effective programs – including involving your employee resource organizations, regular updates to employees about key positions, hiring manager engagement in the process, and mining your employees’ networks to make suggestions for referrals. I promise that it will be a lively and informative session.

Second, you can explore many of the quality third-party referral solutions that are currently in the marketplace. Some of these solutions simply allow your employees to share your openings via their social networks. Others actually match your employees’ social connections against your open positions and suggest referrals to them. Each vendor’s focus and pricing scheme vary greatly. Some to check out: Careerify, Choozer, RolePoint, Referral Link, Zao, Zalp, GooodJob. (In full disclosure, I’m in Careerify’s partner program, on the advisory board of Choozer, and Referral Link is a client of mine).

Third, you can review my company’s report Meritage Talent Solutions’ 2014 Employee Referral Trends Report for some details behind some trends in the industry and to benchmark your program against other programs.

And of course, I’d love to chat with you about your current employee referral challenges. Just drop me a note and we’ll schedule a call.

About Kara Yarnot

Kara founded Meritage Talent Solutions to provide tailored talent acquisition solutions to employers and employment services companies. Kara has over 17 years of leadership experience in talent acquisition and recruiting for several FORTUNE® 500 organizations, including Boeing, Intel, and SAIC.

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