Referrals – leveraging your team’s network

Hiring is tough.

Your company wants the best available talent, you want to deliver it but so does everyone else. I was recently listening to a podcast on Startup Recruiting involving Qubit’s Head of Talent Acquisition, Matthew Bradburn. Matt went into detail to discuss one key part of a talent acquisition strategy – utilising employee referrals. People want to work with the best so they will be forthcoming in highlighting people they believe to be great. Sound obvious?

Obtaining referrals from employees

Whilst employee referrals should not be relied upon as the primary source of candidates, they can provide quality, passive candidates that can bring skills and experience not available on the market.

The key question here is ‘how to obtain referrals from employees?’ This can be particularly difficult to get right, as any recruitment function will be met with a number of issues from employees reluctant to refer skilled professionals. Reasons can include:

  • Fear a poor referral reflecting badly on their judgment
  • Lack of an incentivised referral program
  • Unwillingness to refer passive candidates
  • Trust in their recruitment department offering a good candidate experience

Poor referral?

Employees should not be fearful of referring candidates. The majority of referrals are for people who pretty much have the required skills to do the job at hand. From experience, contacts are also referred as the employee sees that person as a good ‘team fit’ and would add to the current team moral and working style.

So, in the event that a candidate is referred and does not quite make the cut, it should not be viewed negatively. A rejection does not mean that the candidate was a bad one; it simply means that they may not be quite right for that role in the organisation at that time.

Lack of an incentivised referral program

I’d like to explore this in more detail in future blogs so I won’t elaborate too much at this stage. Safe to say that there are arguments for and against an incentivised referral program. An incentivised scheme could yield a greater number of referrals. But could it also lead to a decrease in quality?

Unwillingness to refer passive candidates

This is an interesting one. I asked one of my colleagues the other day if they knew of suitable candidates that they could recommend/refer. The response from one was ‘yes, but they aren’t looking’. I found this slightly puzzling.

Of course employees should not pass on referrals without thought or consideration for that person. On the other hand, it’s the role of the recruiter to seek out passive candidates and introduce opportunities to them. Suppose I was to find the said candidate during a search. Am I not to contact as one of our employees knew that they weren’t looking? Absolutely not. In this case, why would an employee not disclose the name of a potential candidate so that dialogue can be opened, even if for future reference?

An employee should not feel burdened as to whether their referral is looking for a new role or not. Chances are that if they’re suitable the recruiter will identify them anyway so why not pair up? Have a joint business approach in referring passive people so the recruiter is aware of whom they are and the internal relationship before reaching out to them.

Trust in recruiter giving a good candidate experience

Ever referred someone and recruitment never contacted them? Or they did but then they heard nothing back for weeks? Having to take that awkward phone call from your referral, chasing up their application has no doubt happened to employees previously and it puts them off referring people they know again. Understanding and listening to employee’s experiences and explaining the referrals process will help you to build their trust and put their mind at ease that you will offer a prompt candidate experience for anyone they refer.

How to obtain referrals

We’ve looked at the reasons why referrals are great and why employees may be apprehensive about supposedly putting their ‘neck on the line’ by recommending a candidate.

From a recruiter’s perspective, we should try to make this process as simple and as transparent as possible. Remove the formality of a recommendation. Pose questions like ‘who are the best people you have worked with’ rather than ‘are you able to recommend somebody for this role?’ Follow up with questions like ‘what made that person a great colleague?’ and ‘how did they approach their work’. This opens up the conversation and encourages employees to discuss what they feel makes a great candidate.

As mentioned in previous blogs, empowering employees to play a part in the hiring process is something that any rapidly growing company should adopt. Why can’t referrals play as key a part as interviewing in this?

If done right, referrals can provide a great additional source of quality candidates. The key is striking that balance with current employees and creating an enthusiasm around hiring. Every employee wants to feel that his or her voice and opinion is being heard. This is a great way to get them involved and play an active part in growing your company!

Sales Candidates – What are you missing?

Sell me this pen? Really?!

How many times have you been asked that question in an interview? Too many would be my guess. It’s awkward, outdated and pretty useless.

Sales as a profession is constantly evolving, companies are embracing new methods and techniques to structure their sales process and bring out the best in their teams…even adopting agile methodologies like Scrum, commonly used in software development.

In the field of sales recruitment, competition is fierce. In a buoyant market companies will rapidly scale teams. Some candidates will thrive where as others will be left behind. So what can you do to boost your profile and take the next step in your career?

The key is in the preparation, which I have noted below:

The CV

Like it or not, your CV plays a part in getting you that initial interview. According to some research, recruiters spend on average between 5-7 seconds scanning a CV. So why not make your CV as clear and concise as possible? Showcase your skills and experience in a few direct points:

  • Role and product/service sold
  • Revenue generated – per annum, quarter, month (how ever your sales cycle works)
  • Average deal size
  • Average deal length
  • Major achievements

The amount of CVs I see without even half of these points is quite remarkable. This is your career; you’ve worked hard for these achievements so why not highlight them? Even if you have had a tough year you can articulate the challenges and successes briefly and clearly.

Build your network

Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you. Build your brand, reach out to potential employers and start developing relationships. The best opportunities will come from your network so start reaching out now!

Do your research

When preparing for an interview, go into detail. Are you fully confident that you can answer questions posed and explain the product that you could be selling? Break it down into a few key areas:

  • Sales Cycle – Do you currently manage all of the sales cycle? How do you generate leads? How many deals have you closed? How do develop and manage your sales pipeline?
  • Revenue – Know your figures, the total and breakdown
  • Product knowledge – Be confident that you know the companies products and are able to explain their offering. Why not go a step further and consider these products/services and their place in the market – Who are the main competitors? What are the USP’s of that product/service?
  • Failures –everyone  Why not embrace it? Detail accounts or sales you’ve lost. Don’t be afraid; rather take the opportunity to show what you have learnt from it. Demonstrating that level of self-awareness will help you throughout your career!

This isn’t the complete list of how to secure that next step in your sales career. However from my experience of interviewing and hiring these candidates this will give you a solid foundation. Too much time is wasted in the waffle of explaining your role, be concise, highlight your skills and achievements and be prepared to explain the methods you chose to reach the end result. Explaining the method is just as important as detailing your achievements!

Finally, show that you are passionate about your career in sales…oh and don’t forget to close, it’s an interview and you’re a sales person after all!

Having the self-awareness to boost your performance and career

A while back, if you’d have asked me what are the most important features that a company would want I would have produced a list along the lines of ‘technical skills, communication, teamwork…’ I quickly realised that beneath this lays one major attribute that can increase or decrease all of the others – self-awareness. This is a key feature of how I recruit and one that can really play a big part in boosting not only your performance but also your career.

Self-awareness is the ‘Conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires’. Now how do motives, desires, feelings and character relate to boosting your performance and career? Behind each high performer there will be a method of working, a way that that the individual has found to be successful.  Some will be conventional like following a set process, whilst others will be less so. Now why am I rambling on about is this I hear you ask? This is so blatantly obvious!

…Well please take a step back for a second. A moment to consider what has allowed you to develop your career. Many of you will answer ‘I worked really hard’ or ‘I gave myself a target and reached it’. These are fine but the question you need to be asking is how and why? Questioning your methods allows you to look deeper into your performance. There will always be ways you can improve and you won’t find out the honest answer until you delve deeper.

How do we increase self-awareness? Can it be done?

Some will argue that you are either self-aware or your not. I disagree.  It’s not as simple as that. I believe that a higher level of self-awareness can be achieved through continually looking back retrospectively on your performance and considering what factors made you successful or not.  This seems simple but how many of you do this? I’m not talking about quarterly on annual reviews. These are specific instances, conversations, tasks. The key is in the detail.  10 minutes during the day or on the journey home…review, analyse the results, jot down some ideas and alternatives.

But surely this can only take you so far?

Correct. To be truly successful you need to combine the getting the job done, hard work, relationship building, adaptability and a slice of good fortune. Combine these and you will do a great job. Understand why they are important, what you have learnt in the process and how you can evolve going forwards and you, my friend, could be a superstar!