Sunflowers According to Glassdoor, only 10 percent of candidates come in from employee referrals. And yet, that 10 percent accounts for the highest quality hires. If your recruiting team is searching for a way to bring in better candidates, look no further than employee referrals.

But how do you build a dependable pipeline of employee referrals? The answer, of course, is to create an employee referral program.

An Employee Referral Program Can Be Your Best Recruiting Tool

Employee referral programs (ERPs) are often wildly successful for organizations — after all, who best to tap for quality hires than the very people who already make your company great? That being said, ERPs can pose a problem: when a company is looking for a constant source of quality referrals, there’s no guarantee that employees will always have great referrals to fill the talent pool.

This is why recruiting teams have to start thinking like marketers. What would prompt employees to refer qualified acquaintances and friends, rather than every Joe Shmoe they know? Let’s examine some simple options that can produce some big results:

Offer a Prize if an Employee’s Candidate Is Hired: It may sound hokey, but people love to win things. If an employee stands to gain a few extra bucks or a gift certificate to a local restaurant, they’ll be more encouraged to refer qualified candidates. Since the prize is conditional on the employee’s referred candidate actually getting hired, this will cause employees to think hard about who they refer, discouraging employees from referring poor candidates. The name of the game here is quality, not quantity.

Create a Wall of Fame: If an employee refers a candidate, they earn a spot on the “Wall of Fame.” The person who refers the most hired candidates can hold a spot of honor on that wall.

Recognition can build goodwill among employees and give them a sense of pride in the work they’re doing. Imagine how tickled clients and vendors will be as well when they come into the office and see the kind of recognition your team receives! Engaged employees are often a part of the employer brand itself. With a Wall of Fame in place, the recruiting team gains a pipeline of referrals and employees gain a sense of belonging. They get to represent the brand in a more meaningful way.

Throw a Networking Party: Networking events are great ways to show off your company’s culture and meet employee referrals. Parties are nonthreatening environments where people feel free to mix and Ladybugmingle. Try to incorporate some employee recognition into the event, too, as this will communicate to the referral candidates in attendance that your company values its staff . This simple solution can help build an effective employee referral program that produces quality hires right out of the gate.

Just Ask: No room on the wall? No room in the budget? How about your recruiting team just asks employees if they’ve got anyone great to refer. This method may not seem exciting, but employees who know talented individuals they’d like to work with will respond with referrals. This method isn’t about creating avalanches of referrals; in fact, it may only produce one quality referral — but that referral may be your organization’s next great hire.

Get Creative and Think Like an Employee

To develop a thriving employee referral program, you have to abandon the recruiter mindset and start thinking like the average employee. In your mind, it’s clear what the employer brand is and why employees should refer candidates, but that may not be as clear in the employees’ minds. To establish a successful ERP, you may need to start by communicating your employer brand message more clearly to existing employees.

No matter your method of encouragement, it’s helpful to start with the basics and ask yourself whether you’d want your friends to work at your organization.  If the answer is “no,” you may need to lay some important cultural groundwork prior to asking employees for referrals. Once this groundwork is in place, your team has ample opportunity to think outside the box and start a thriving employee referral program.

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