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!

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!

The role every employee can play in hiring

So….this is the second blog I have written today. The first, which was my first ever independent blog post and unfortunately suffered at the hands of a disagreement between it’s author (me) and application being used.

Here we go, attempt number two. I was going to re-type the original version but that moment has now passed and I feel that fate played a bit in the content disappearing. What I would like to discuss today is part of what is being called ‘Talent Hacking’, namely empowering employees to make decisions during the hiring process and the role the in-house recruiter plays in this. We aren’t re-inventing the wheel here but we can and must adjust our approach to the changes in the industry.

In today’s recruitment climate factors like employee branding have really risen to the fore in attracting top level candidates and proactive sourcing has become an essential feature of the modern recruiter. No longer in the interview process are decisions left solely to the senior management. Employees at all levels are utilised to provide a comprehensive assessment of all candidates. This is something that I have seen done well but requires a certain level of coaching. This is where the role of the in-house recruiter comes into play…

For smaller companies, every hire is absolutely crucial. Candidates must be assessed for technical skill set, soft skills and team fit. This is absolutely crucial as one bad hire can have a far more detrimental effect to a company that in a large, multinational corporate. To make sure that you are covering all bases you need to include current employees at all levels (with the one stipulation being that the employees involved in interviews have been at the company a sufficiently amount of time to fully understand the standard required and culture).

Not everybody is experienced in interviewing and from my own experience confidence takes a while to build up. The in-house recruiter can play a key role in ensuring that the interviewers are qualified to make an objective judgement on that candidate. This can be broken down into a number of areas:

  • What skills are the interviewers assessing at each stage of the process – Team fit? Technical skills? Set competencies? This is vital because unless guided the interviewer can easily get lost and go off track.
  • Interview etiquette – this is an interview after all so both parties are being judged, not just the candidate.
  • How they should structure their interview?
  • Time Management? 
  • What they can/can’t say – the legal part…
I think if you can cover these main points that you will end up with a fair and consistent interview process. Employees will feel empowered that they are playing a key part in growing the company and more importantly their opinion is valued. 
This is a great method to identify and make quality hires, make no mistake about it. The interview process has evolved and with this so has the role of the in-house recruiter. We have a big part to play in nurturing not only the growth of teams but the growth of employees as decision makers. Everyone in your company will have an opinion on that to hire great people, remember that as the recruiter you are the expert and this a great way to showcase your expertise to the business and win their respect.