One of the easiest ways to attract new employees is through current employees and yet this is an area where so many companies struggle in talent identification.  Companies still struggle with employee referral numbers and, while some groups may do it better, it always appears to be an overall company struggle.

What is the psychology behind an employee referral…

Fear of referring poor hire, thinking their name will be tagged on the person they referred?  Hesitancy to refer a friend or family member?  Don’t want to refer someone who may jump me for the next promotion?  These are all valid concerns, and there are many more that I missed.

From an HR perspective, we need to begin (or continue) to think about new approaches to the question “who do you know” for employee referrals.  So many recruiters just don’t ask the questions to lead a person to a potential referral.  This should be the goal on every call, to get connected to someone else.

Should companies look at incentivizing employee referrals (cash bonus, PTO time, gift cards, and sporting event tickets)?  While these are all good options for non-HR employees, recruiters should always be looking at ways to add top talent.

When speaking with an external candidate, I have found, they are willing to talk and either provide a name or pass along information.  If the later happens, a recruiter needs to follow up on this action otherwise it was not a productive call.  As with anything, the follow through is critical, an in a profession that is already scrutinized, it is probably the most important thing a recruiter can do.

The key is to follow through to drive better referral results.  Make it a goal of your day or week, work to get connected and use LinkedIn to build your network this way; it is amazing at what you might achieve.  Social media is opening the door even wider for this activity but it will not be given to you.  Engage, interact and then something good just might happen.


About kufarms
10 years in HR and recruiting both in the corporate and agency worlds. Corporate Recruiter and Socail Media Strategist. Looking to share and discuss topics as well as hopefully provide some thought. Dad of 2 with a loving wife.

2 Responses to Referrals

  1. Interesting and thought provoking article Keith. I’m happy to see someone thinking about the psychology of referrals.
    This is indeed an important part of successful recruiting. In my experience I’ve found that the following things have increased my ability to get referrals:
    1. Be very specific about what you are looking for when you ask. This helps to open the person’s mind and get them thinking. There’s a big difference between “Do you know a good project manager?” and “Can you introduce me to a friend of yours in Project Management that works at a company like a Cisco or Motorola or IBM?”
    2. There’s an old adage that states that “A players refer other A players. B-players refer C-players.” I’ve found this to be true when networking but perhaps it was simply a self-fulfilling prophesy?
    3. Make sure to let the source know that you want to talk to people currently employed and happy with their roles. If you don’t say this they may translate your request for referrals into a request for people they know that are looking for a job which will limit their ability to provide all the referrals they potentially have in the back of their mind.

    Nice article Keith.

  2. kufarms says:


    Great comments and I couldn’t agree with you more. All too often when speaking with a potential candidate, the referrals are not the people you ultimately want… you ideally want those that are currently working (but there are exceptions).

    I really like your thoughts on being as specific as possible so that their mindset will be geared towards a specific type of company rather than a company that isn’t in the same market space.

    Keep up your great work my friend!


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