Sourcing and Employee Referrals

As sourcers we almost never think about employee referrals, but I would suggest it is time to reconsider that position. There are a few reasons for this. The first is that most companies need to improve the results they get from an employee referral program.

The second is that with a record number of over six million jobs advertised online there is more competition for prospective candidate’s attention now than in any time in the history of the internet. Three new technologies have allowed companies to empower sourcers to be proactive about soliciting referrals.

As a sourcer, it feels better to have hired someone by using some obscure and arcane tactic than soliciting an employee referral. However, we need to move past the mindset that our activity matters to the company we work for. The only thing that matters to the business is the hires that we complete. I read an article some time ago from Glen Cathey about not being a sourcing snob. The point of the article is that hiring the right person is more important than the path we took to get the hire.

If you are a sourcer and you submit three candidates that get hired do you think it will matter if they were sourced by using Boolean strings or by reaching out to existing employee and soliciting referrals?  The answer is this.

It doesn’t matter where you sourced your candidate from; it only matters if they got hired. You may be the most technically capable sourcer in the world, but if you only hire a few candidates per year because you just source from complex, low return sources, you are not going to get promoted as quickly as a sourcer that used employee referrals, job boards, and ATS archives to get a more substantial number of hires.

What the value-add for sourcing is hires. We need to focus on the value that we bring not the latest and greatest shinny button. So what has changed that makes me want to move employee referrals into the hands of sourcers?

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Among other things, technology. In the past, most employee referral programs have had recruiters hat in hand asking for a handout and while we did have a sympathy serge from the business, it was not a sustainable model that could produce consistent results. Now we have ways to proactively solicit referrals that don’t rely on who an employee might remember off the top of their head at the moment.

The first feature for a sourcer to use is the social sharing tools available in many modern ATS systems. I happen to be most familiar with Jobvite but using this simple point and click approach you can send your jobs to your employee’s networks. That can provide great inbound traffic. Also, it lets the people in your employee’s network engage with the employee in a non-threatening/lowkey way.

There is also new technology tools like Teamable that will allow a sourcer to examine the social networks of existing employees and solicit referrals. One of the significant bottlenecks of sourcing has been response rates. If you can identify a prospect and have your employee make an initial contact, response rates can move from “industry standard” 20% to around 80%. That is the kind of efficiency gain that sourcers need to produce the results that companies would like to see from us.

Even if the employee is unwilling to conduct the initial outreach using an employee’s name in an initial outreach will dramatically improve your response rates. So there it is. As the sourcer, I wouldn’t ask for the latest and greatest aggregator. I’d ask for a tool that allows me to search our employees existing social networks proactively.

Mike Wolford has over 10 years of recruiting experience in staffing agency, contract and in house corporate environments. He has worked with such companies as Allstate, Capital One, and National Public Radio. Mike also published a book titled “Becoming the Silver Bullet: Recruiting Strategies for connecting with Top Talent” and How to Find and Land your Dream Job: Insider tips from a Recruiter.” He also founded Recruit Tampa, and he’s currently theStrategic Sourcing Lead at Nielsen. An active member of the recruiting community, Mike has spoken publicly in an effort to help elevate the level of professional skills. Follow him on Twitter @Mike1178, or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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