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How to create referral culture to get FREE hires

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How to create referral culture to get FREE hires


Referral hires are the best hires. Don’t believe us? Well, the statistics speak for themselves:

  • Referrals are the number one source in hiring volume (
  • Referrals are the number one source for new hire quality (
  • Referrals are the fastest application-to-hire time in days (Jobvite)
  • Referrals are the number one source for retention at 46 per cent (Jobvite)


But for all these benefits, referrals are criminally overlooked. This could be due to the fact that only 20 per cent of In-House Recruiters are happy with the involvement of employees in referral programs.

And for a referral program to be successful, it requires buy-in from everyone. Thankfully, this is well within the realms of possibility at virtually any business. In this article, we’ll discuss some simple steps to get your team on board and how to create a referral program that works.

Dr. John Sullivan, who many consider ‘The Michael Jordan of Hiring’, says it best:

“Well-designed referral programs not only identify top prospects that are not in a job-search mode, but they also require employees to assess candidates for skills and fit and to sell them on the company and the job. Taken together, this identification, assessment and selling feature, make referrals superior to any other source.”

Educate employees on the power of referrals

It’s all well and good telling you that referrals produce more profit and stay at organisations for the longest. But it’s your workforce that really needs to take heed and pay attention to this information.

Therefore, you should start by educating your workforce about the positive influence referrals can have on the business. Not just from a financial perspective, but also a cultural point of view.

Communicate recruiting goals

Recruitment is something that has an impact on the entire organisation. So, it makes sense for everyone to be kept in the loop about objectives and achievements.

Regular updates about vacant positions and new hires not only ensures transparency, it can also increase the likelihood that employees will help out.

Get everyone to recruit

As recruiting, both in terms of sourcing and interviewing, takes up quite a bit of time, you might want to expand its reach across the organisation.

For example, you could tie recruiting into quarterly goals on a team by team basis. This helps hiring managers delegate time more effectively.

Prioritise tough-to-fill roles

When it comes to positions that are imperative to the business, or simply difficult to fill, be certain you communicate this pressing concern to everyone.

Options include sending out emails, holding office ‘hire hours’ to answer questions, and throwing ‘referral’ parties with resources to help employees locate candidates.

Define the attributes and skills you’re seeking

That ideal candidate could be one of your employee’s loved ones, close friends, or family members, but if they don’t know the attributes and skills you require, the chances of a referral are slim to none.

For this reason, ensure everyone knows what the perfect candidate looks like, encompassing their key skills and not just a desired job title.

Provide employees with talent marketing resources

When your employees reach out to their contacts, they will need some point of reference about the job, such as a careers page, blog post, or video.  

While social media can also be used to great effect, it will need leveraging with exciting and engaging content in order to generate meaningful outcomes.

Start a competition

In spite of its ability to encourage referrals, you have got to be a bit careful with remuneration for employees. A lot of the time, running a competition is better.

That way, you can get everyone excited with a set of prizes. Prizes should merit not just the finality of making a hire, but also involvement in building a candidate pipeline. Regularly update the workforce on who’s in front to keep things interesting.

Make it as easy as possible to submit a referral

The last thing your employees will want is to print out paperwork, ask for updates from their referral, and have the entire process completely consume them. So, make it as easy as possible to submit a referral. 


Along with a measure of performance culture, referral programs can also become a key part of your brand culture too. Having everyone ‘on the boat’ will make it easier to put wind in your sails.

Food for thought

Consider using employee reward schemes to incentivise and improve the hiring process. This can be extremely easy to initiate too. Organisations such as Perkbox, Red Letter Days, and Headspace can help out.

Talent Heroes is a people business. We’re contracted by clients to work in house, attracting and hiring an unlimited number of staff, for an all inclusive monthly fee.


Talent Heroes hire, so you don’t have to.

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Creating an awesome candidate interview experience is vital to hiring the staff you want.


We’re still astounded to see how many organisations don’t consider the ‘candidate interview experience’ as paramount to the hiring process. All too often the employer (this can be the Founder, department manager, or HR) comes across in a manner that is off putting to the interviewee, whilst even when they don’t the overall ‘journey’ or ‘experience’ that the candidate has, represents the company in a bad light. To hire staff, you have to deliver your best performance.

Tony Hsieh, the visionary CEO of Zappos, is a protagonist of building culture and advocates how the best people are attracted by your culture and how hiring managers must exemplify the culture to secure talent.

At Zappos, we really view culture as our No. 1 priority. We decided that if we get the culture right, most of the stuff, like building a brand around delivering the very best customer service, will just take care of itself - Tony Hsieh

4 Types of interviewer that candidates can’t stand.

The first thing to consider is what sort of interviewer are you. A potential employee will determine that the person they meet is a representation of the company itself. After all, your culture is shaped by the people that you employ. Below are four persona’s that candidates don’t want to meet, but more often than not do.

#1 The Nonchalant

Outwardly casual and calm. A relaxed style displaying little interest or enthusiasm. They act as though they don’t really want to be there and that the interview has no importance to them.

#2 The Narcissist

Has an egotistical admiration of their own attributes. This interviewer spends the whole time talking about how great they are, and references the interviewees skills in a derogatory way, suggesting a ‘you’re no way as good as I am’.

#3 The Slob

Is late, scruffily dressed, hasn’t read the application/CV and provides little in the way of information about the job role and responsibilities

#4 The Textbook

Overly formal. Lacks personality. Asks detailed scenario based questions. Runs through the job description, but doesn’t delve into the motivations of the individual in front of them.

The ideal interviewer

To impress and draw in the best talent, your team have to be able to interview effectively, both to mine whether the applicant has the knowledge, skills, applicational experience and cultural suitability for the role and company, and to outwardly represent your company culture, values and vision.

Most interviews last around an hour, so there is a lot to cover in a short time and everyone is different. So, to streamline the process and to get consistency, create an interviewing guide. With this, you’ll capture the knowledge you need to make a decision on progressing an applicant, you’ll be able to communicate a candidate’s suitability to a team member and anyone carrying out further stages of the process of the interview process, will quickly be able to review your notes in a recognisable and agreed format.

The overall journey, must be built into the culture of your organisation

It’s important to remember, that much like any customer journey we go on, the interviewee, wants to have an exemplary experience at every touchpoint. We’ll all had great in-store experiences, only to feel let down by customer services on the telephone, or by the quality of the packaging that our product arrives in. Brand perception is everything. It’s the same when you want to hire.

Zappos, was lauded as an organisation whose success, in an incredibly competitive space, was attributed to amazing customer experience and it’s CEO put that ‘experience’ being born from the culture that he had built and through the consistency of their hiring process. It’s an old example now, but still highly relevant.

Food for thought

All of your team should be briefed on what the ‘customer experience’ means in your culture. The way a candidate gets treated should be the same as a client get treated, the same as a supplier gets treated and the same as everyone in the business gets treated.

Your values and ambition will shine through and the best talent will want a piece of the action.

You may be interested in these articles:

How to create an interview guide for your hiring managers

What a ‘best in class’ candidate hiring journey should look like

Creating and set of company values.

A review of tools for understanding and improving staff happiness/staff benefits (Happiness Index, Headspace, Bonusly)

Ever wondered if you should be thinking about in-house recruitment?

Talent Heroes is a people business. We’re contracted by clients to work in house, attracting and hiring an unlimited number of staff, for an all inclusive monthly fee.


Talent Heroes hire, so you don’t have to.

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