What Makes For a Great Job Referral?

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Ah, referrals.

The No. 1 source of hire. The best way to retain coveted employees. The easiest approach to finding the right candidates for the job.

For hiring managers, it’s like a present in your inbox: More than likely, these candidates are going to be great, especially in comparison to those sourced from other methods.

While there’s no denying the power of a good referral, what makes a referral great? That is, what’s the secret ingredient for a remarkable employee referral?

It’s more than saying, “Yes, this person can do the job.” It’s about who can do it well, for the long-run, and who fits in with your established employees and clientele.

Stumped on what makes a great referral? Ask yourself these questions:

Where is the referral coming from?

Here’s the thing: You don’t want a referral to come from just anywhere. While I’m sure your employee’s cousin’s brother’s wife’s friend is great, the degrees of connections are too wide for your worker to make a sound decision.

Tip: Ask your connections (employees, former employees, business partners, vendors, etc.) to focus on first and second of degrees of connections — those who are directly connected to referrers in some way. They can vouch for the candidate because they can, not because they think they can.

Is the referral based on working knowledge of the candidate?

Many referrers bring in friends or classmates, but if they don’t know how these people perform in a work environment, the referral isn’t really worth much. There’s a solid difference between referring those who are good because you assume they’re good and because you know they’re good.

Tip: Assess if the referral is based on working knowledge of the candidate, such as how they performed in a professional work environment, in order to understand if the skills of the candidate are legitimate.

Do they align with your company culture?

Did you know 89 percent of hiring failures are due to poor cultural fit? Company culture is important, especially if you want someone to grow with your organization.

You want your employees and teams to feel comfortable with the new kid in town. Otherwise productivity, results, or general morale may reduce due to compatibility issues.

Tip: Ask your network to assess if the candidate could work with other team members, handle all the necessary tasks, come to the table with their own ideas, and view the position as more than a job, but as a place where they can flourish.

What do they want to achieve?

Is the referral in it for their own glory, or, do they want to expand your operations? Do they want to stick around short term or long term? Is the lead’s primary focus climbing up the ladder or seeing what they can do to create collective achievements?

While it’s great to have your own goals, there needs to be some parallelism in order for things to work out.

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Tip: Your network needs to understand how critical it is that they gauge the goals of a future employee before they promise them anything — and before you commit to them. If this alignment is off, you could be faced with a worker who isn’t on track with what your organization is trying to achieve.

What’s their track record like?

It’s all about what an employee can do for you. While a referrer can say their referral is good, they need to come to the table with specific accomplishments and a proven track record of success.

Tip: Come up with a track record checklist. What specific accomplishments have they made that are transferrable to your organization? Which customers or clients can they bring on board? Do they have a few spots of success or win at everything they touch?

Understanding what a referral’s track record is like helps you to visualize what they can do for you, both now and in the future.

Is the referrer only in it for the reward?

Here’s an issue you’ve likely seen: If you offer a big reward for referrals, you may receive an influx of candidates, but not necessarily an influx of good candidates.

Instead, focus on upping the reward for quality candidates. This will reduce the number of unqualified candidates you receive since many referrers will typically want to the larger prize.

Tip: You can recognize quality in multiple ways. For instance, you can offer social recognition for a qualified lead, but large cash rewards for the actual hire. The important thing is to acknowledge value, instead of the act itself.

Referrals are the No. 1 source of hire for a reason: They perform better, stay on longer, and give more to an organization that other candidates. However, it’s your job to make sure the referral is more than just a reference; they have to be referrals who’ll help you to reach your goals and positively contribute to your organization.

What do you think? What are some other characteristics of a good referral?

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