Expect Referrals! Five Truths About Candidate Referrals

The recruiting profession is blessed with a number of tools for finding and attracting quality candidates. The Internet, our telephones, ads in newspapers and magazines, and job fairs are just a few of the avenues we have to connect with people in today’s marketplace. What all of these have in common is that they put you in touch with people who know other people. As a result, you might think that most recruiters get lots of referrals. But in polling recruiters over the past few years, I was startled to discover that most receive candidate referrals from the people they connect with less than 25% of the time. When asked why, the majority of these recruiters indicated that they simply don’t ask for referrals as often as they believe they should. Getting referrals has been an integral part of our business since its inception. It is my belief that the main cause for the current “slump” in referrals is that many recruiters have simply gotten out of the habit of asking. In several seminars I conducted this year, the overall consensus of each audience was just that: the problem lies in that we are not in the habit of requesting what we need. If you have any doubts that asking for and receiving referrals is a natural part of our business, then check out the following five truths about referrals:

  1. It is human nature to help others. Most people take pleasure in helping others. The generous outpouring of support after the events of September 11th is a clear example.
  2. Everyone knows at least 250 people. In his book How to Sell Anything to Anybody, Joe Girard shows us that each person knows at least 250-500 people. His proof: average attendance at weddings and funerals.
  3. Most people take great pride in who they know. Name-dropping is common in conversations. The key in referrals is to get them to drop names your way.
  4. You can get something, at least one thing, out of most conversations. Whether it be referrals, leads on current openings where they’re currently working, or information on a company in their area that’s downsizing, nearly everyone you connect with knows something that could be helpful to you.
  5. Everyone is an expert at asking for referrals. Whether it is a referral to a doctor or a tip on a good restaurant, requesting referrals is a normal part of everyday life.

Based upon these truths, the key to getting more referrals is to believe you deserve them, and then ask for what you deserve. An easy way to remember this is to “ask early and ask always.” Ask each and every person you connect with an open-ended question such as “Who do you know that would be qualified for the position I just described to you?” For those of you who are asking, “Isn’t that being pushy?” it’s a choice that you can make. You can be a pushy recruiter who doesn’t take no for answer. Or you can ask each person you talk with for what you need in a very nice way. Whoever coined the phrase, “It doesn’t hurt to ask,” spoke the truth when it comes to asking for referrals. My challenge to you is to start asking for referrals from everyone! Just like the muscles in our arms and legs, your “referral” muscle will get stronger and work more effortlessly the more you use it.

As president of the Wintrip Consulting Group, Scott Wintrip has helped thousands of companies improve their ability to hire talent on demand. He helped these organizations to grow faster, increase revenues, improve profitability, and expand market share. In the process of advising, educating, and coaching his clients, he has created more than $1.3 billion in positive economic impact for them. An astute strategist, he is respected for his strong leadership and practical advice. He is also the author of High Velocity Hiring: How to Hire Top Talent in an Instant (McGraw-Hill, April 2017). You can learn more about him and his services at WintripConsultingGroup.com.

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