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Oct 16, 2012

In the rush to find top talent for their open positions, organizations often get caught in the traditional recruiting cycle.

Trying to do more of the same, however, doesn’t always bring in better results — and the effort put into the talent acquisition process has a low return. Many companies either completely overlook employee referral programs or are unable to integrate them into their recruiting process in a seamless and meaningful way.

Employee referrals were the No. 1 source of outside hires last year, beating even job boards and career sites. Your current employees can pave the way for your future hiring success.

Employee referrals are effective because your current team members know what it takes to thrive in your workplace and the skills needed to face the challenges of your business. They can use this information to screen contacts and connections in their network before referring for an open position. This means that your organization can build a more targeted and higher quality candidate pool.

Here are six ways to turn your employee referral program from a clunker into a talent finding machine:

1. Make it easier

If a referral program requires employees to jump through many hoops before they can share your open jobs with people in their networks, it is less likely to be used by most. Too many steps in the process can sometimes make it extremely unattractive for employees to go through the unnecessarily long process of sending referrals and getting acknowledged for their efforts.

By putting your referral program in the cloud, you make it available for employees to access at any time. In addition, a focus on the usability of the referral program can go a long way in making it successful.

This means if your employees meet a great candidate, they should be able to easily refer the talent to your company from wherever they are. It also makes it possible for hiring managers to take action, get their team to collaborate and quickly review incoming referrals, when speed is critical.

2. Integrate your employee referrals

Treating employee referrals as a standalone and casual effort makes it difficult to realize its true benefit on the entire hiring process. When integrated into a next-generation collaborative recruitment platform and combined with applicant tracking and work flow, the referral programs are more effective and easier to track.

When your system is unable to properly track referrals, great candidates can fall through the cracks or contextual information about the referral may not be recorded properly to help with the recruitment process. An integrated recruitment platform, on the other hand, allows you to track great referrals along with the source, comments, notes and other content so you can make a better hiring decision.

3. Utilize social media

Social media is everywhere in today’s digital landscape and your recruitment efforts can benefit greatly from employee referrals via social media, which can help you reach talented candidates quickly and in a cost-effective way.

If you make your jobs easy to share via social media where open positions can be shared across multiple channels and social networks with a few clicks, your employees will be more likely to share these positions with their contacts. In addition, proper tracking of referrals creates further incentive for all stakeholders to actually use the referral features.

4. Consider internal referrals

Not all of your great hires may come from outside the company. Sometimes employees do not want to move out of the organization and instead are interested and ready to take on newer challenges in their current organizations.

Let employees refer coworkers they think would be great for newer challenges and positions better suited to their skill sets. This could sometimes work well for the company, while building team morale and allowing employers to keep and develop the talent they have already invested in.

5. Take fast action

Employees will stop referring great candidates if the candidates they send never hear back from your company.

Make it a company policy to set a realistic timetable for responding to referred candidates. In order to come up with a time frame, look at the average time it takes to screen a candidate based in your current process. Ideally, employers should aim to get back to candidates as soon as possible within the same week.

Communicate the expected time frame within the company so that your employees can set the correct expectation with their referrals. When the communication happens within the expected time frame, there is a smaller chance for misunderstandings and the candidates losing interest. Further, use event-based auto messaging to keep your candidates engaged and interested.

6. Create incentives

To get your employees really excited and involved in your employee referral program, a good incentive can make a big difference. The incentives could be as simple as a cash bonus or something work-specific, such as a better parking spot.

Rewarding employees who refer great talent can put some serious thrust behind your incentive program and will directly affect the quality and quantity of employee referrals you receive.

Employee referral programs are important if you want the best and brightest to fill your open positions. Good employee referral programs will motivate workers to share their connections with the company, giving you access to a cache of great, pre-screened talent for your organization.

What are some ways you can improve your employee referral program? Share in the comments!