Employee: Hey, are we still looking for a project manager for Karen’s team?

Me Recruiter: Yes, we still are.  A certified PM that is willing to commute to FAR OFF TOWN has been hard to find.

Employee: Well I know a guy that fits that bill!

Me Recruiter: We are also doing gift cards if they get to interview, and a cash bonus if they get hired.  So send them to me!

Employee: Great!  I won’t forget to send that resume. 

Me Recruiter: Great!  I won’t forget to add you to the spreadsheet that’s sitting on my desk.

There are a number of benefits to hiring an employee referral.  Including a higher quality of hire, faster application to hire time, lower cost per hire, and a new team member that will work well with your current employees.  But often a new, impromptu, or not often used employee referral program can fall through the cracks.  Making sure that the employee, their referral, and their appreciation don’t fall through the crack is a combination of preparation and automation. 

Getting ready

A successful program requires some simple prior preparation to make sure it’s a clear process. 

What are we giving and when?

This conversation can start by defining which positions are most in need of referrals.  They may be your hard to staff for positions.  They may be positions that benefit most from team members bringing in former team mates that can get up to speed quickly.  As you move from defining the positions to that can most benefit from employee referrals, you can define out the rewards. 

Typically, rewards are the easiest to convey.  Are you giving gift cards, cash, or PTO days?  How far in the process does the referral have to get for each reward?  A gift card for an interview, cash for 2nd interview, or PTO days for a new hire.  As well as do the employees need to submit the resume directly to HR or refer the resume through the Applicant Tracking System. 

Next steps

Defining the different rewards and candidate steps will help you define what the process should be for employees and all participants of the hiring team.  For this, remember to keep it simple and clear.  Make sure the steps for the employee to submit an employee are clear and simple.  Make sure the steps for the hiring managers, interviewers, and anyone else who may touch the process are also clear and well documented.  For both of these, a short checklist that’s easily distributed, accessible, and redistributed often make sure the new processes will stick. 

Tracking referrals

Modern applicant tracking systems will help you track which employees refer a resume in.  They can help track when that candidate hits different activities like interview, second interview, offer, and hired.  The end result can be consolidated reports on who is owed what level of payout. 

If your solution doesn’t support this level of automation, then build these checks into the process.  Every time someone is hired, make sure that information is logged to a central point of contact. For the various other candidate activities such as interview or second interview, add that central point of contact to the standard interview forms as an activity.  By adding the logging to the process, you can help insure that the information gets to the correct place. 


Set the schedule of sending out awards.  This may be governed by payroll, or by quarterly reviews.  Whatever the schedule is, make sure it’s clearly communicated to your employees.  Also make sure these schedules include reviews on the quality of hires brought in.  Do employees know about the program and the incentives?  Are they excited about the incentives?  Also, are awards being properly tracked and distributed?  Checking these items periodically will help make sure you’ve got a successful program.  

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