The Employee-referral Opportunity You May Be Missing

In many companies, once the recruiter makes the hires and perhaps onboards them, the recruiter is no longer involved in the new employees’ time at the company.

This is a mistake and a missed opportunity. 

Let’s say you are the sole IT recruiter in your company. You should know who all the top performers are within the IT department. Get updates, at least on an annual basis from managers. This would be regardless of whether the hiring manager has or will be hiring for the year. Think of it as an annual touch-base with the hiring managers; at the least, you will remind them who you are.

The reason for this is because you want to speak with all the top performers and ask them for referrals.

Think about it. We all know that one of the best sources of candidates is employee referrals. Who would know the best people in the field? Probably, the top performers. Research has shown that top performers give the best employee referrals, because top performers know other top performers. Top performers want to work with other top performers.

Now, I do not suggest approaching one of the top performers and asking, “who do you know that is looking for new opportunities?”  Most will draw a blank because the question is too general. He or she will probably say, “I don’t know anyone who is looking” and end the conversation. Also, top performers actively hide from being spotted by recruiters, because they are not looking currently and we spam them.

I also do not suggest sending a survey form or email communication asking for referrals. Online communication is too impersonal. It looks like you really don’t care about them or their friends. It just looks like you are fishing for names. Asking for referrals like this requires a personal touch to be highly effective.

Instead, approach them in person (or by phone if they are not in the same region). Say how glad you are that they are with the team and you hope they are happy here.

Then you gently move into something like, “we always want to learn about great people in their fields. Likely, they are not looking for new jobs at this time; however, who would you say are the five best people you ever worked with?”

Then wait for the answer.

If you sense a “drawing a blank,” you may want to gently guide the conversation. You ask for the names of the best managers, programmers, or innovative idea-people who they know. If you prompt them with specific categories, you will get superior names.

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Also, prepare for the conversation by looking up the names of the last few companies they had worked for. Then you could ask for specifics like, “who is the best person you worked with at ABC company?”

Depending on the response, you could elaborate upon why you want the names. You could assure them that you will not be trying to recruit them right away. You know that they are not really looking now. You want to contact them to see if they ever thought about working for your company. If so, you want to know under what circumstances they might make a move. Also that you would like to network with them and find out who the best people they know are.

Again, you can make it clear you are not trying to present current opportunities to them. This is a long-term play. You are gaining the names (and ideally contact information) of other top performers in the industry to start conversations with them. You’re building a relationship and trust.

Lastly, ask why they think that the people they mentioned are so good at what they do. What makes them so good?

If you have an employee referral program, mention that if their referral is hired, they still earn the referral bonus. The bonus is earned just for the name and a little information. You will do all the work of following up with them.

If you have a customer relationship management system, add these people to the system with special denotation. If after speaking with them you feel they would be a good fit with your company, set up recurring reminders to reach out to them. This could form the basis of a pool/pipeline of top performers who you could recruit later. Often people are convinced to apply to a company after several touch points, and as these are probably some of the best people in their respective fields … who better to stay in touch with?

Eric Putkonen (linkedin.com/in/ericputkonen and @eputkonen) is a 15-year veteran of the recruiting industry and public speaker/presenter who is passionate about recruiting/talent acquisition, retention, culture & employment brand, engagement, and leadership. He also writes a blog about these topics at www.NeoRecruiter.com

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