Woman Chef Sharpening The KnifeIt’s no secret that employee referrals can be the resource you need to find great hires. They’re not only the no. 1 source of hire, they’re also linked to higher retention rates and can bring your organization better results. Referral hires work better than any other source of hire because members of your network understand what you’re looking for, comprehend your values, and know who will vibe best with the current team.

Unfortunately, when you have an employee referral program, you may find yourself gaining tons of referrals, only to have some of them lacking certain qualities or skill sets. Particularly as you reevaluate your recruitment strategy in 2014, you need to focus more on referral quality, as opposed to quantity.

Here are some ways to sharpen your referral program in 2014:

Be completely transparent

If you want your employees to be part of a referral program, being completely transparent about what you want is vital. This includes clear job descriptions, which outline goals for the position, salary information, and the ideal employee for the job. In addition, looping employees in on the actual recruitment process, such as time-to-hire or how many interviews are typically conducted, gives them a roadmap to keep in mind.

When your employees understand what you’re looking for, the chances they’ll refer candidates who are “out there” will decrease. Transparency equates to quality referrals because everything you want and expect is known.

Implement a mobile referral program

The recruitment world is going mobile. On the other side of the hiring table, studies show that most job seekers use their mobile devices to look for work. These two factors need to be woven into your mobile recruitment strategy for a few reasons: If you have a mobile or remote workforce, referring qualified employees is easier, especially if they don’t have access to an in-house referral program. Smartphone applications or mobile referral portals also streamlines the referral process for remote employees when they want to refer an applicant in a snap.

In addition, if you create a mobile career site, your referrers will have a place to direct qualified candidates. Based on the fact that more people are using their mobile devices to search for employment opportunities, a mobile career site that houses job descriptions and company information can help referrals to move through the application process more efficiently.

Use gamification

Kevin Werbach of the University of Pennsylvania defines gamification as the application of game elements and digital game design techniques to non-game problems, such as business and social impact challenges. In short, gamification makes tasks more fun if there is a game-like element surrounding them.

How can this increase quality? Well, since referring qualified employees is an added task for your team, why shouldn’t they have some fun doing it? That’s where gamification can come in. For example, giving points to the team that nabs the most qualified referrals can create friendly competitions between departments. Ultimately, gamification prompts employees to participate in a way that meets your goals.

Offer better rewards

As I noted above, participating in a referral program is an added task for your employees. That’s why creating a better rewards program based on the types of referrals can greatly increase lead quality. Ultimately, when you reward your employees for bringing in referrals, you encourage participation. However, when you reward a certain type of referral—those that are of quality— the result will be more in line with your needs.

For example, let’s say your employee brought in a referral who later participated in a phone interview. The reward for this can be something such as social recognition. If that interview leads to a second one, they can be given free movie tickets. Finally, if the interviewed candidate was eventually hired, they can receive a cash reward or a paid vacation. The reward reflects the result, which incentivizes your employees to produce better quality referrals.

This year, focus on the quality of referrals you receive, as opposed to the quantity. You’ll find yourself spending less time weeding through unqualified applicants and more time hiring those who are a better fit for your organization.

What do you think? What are some other ways to sharpen your employee referrals in 2014?

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