How to Get with the (Referral) Program

I talked last week about the importance of hiring good employees. Good employees can provide good referrals for more good employees. Now, that’s all well and good, but employee and client referrals shouldn’t happen just at random; they shouldn’t be considered unexpected strokes of luck. Businesses need programs, actual parameters for laying worthwhile ground between your current employees and potential employees. This week, instead of bringing up some obscure-yet-relevant story about my life, interesting though it may be, here are some ways to help you build effective employee and client referral programs.

Communication is key. If an employee refers you to a candidate, make contact with that candidate within days of hearing about them. Chances are, your employee has already informed their referral of the employment opportunity and are waiting with bated breath to hear from your company. Accommodate the candidate by fast-tracking their evaluation or being more flexible with assessment arrangements or interview times.

For client referral programs, utilize the methods of mass communication available at your fingertips. Keep your business’ social life active, always maintaining discussion. Furthermore, if a client explicitly names a referral, get their contact information, and start building that bridge.

Be inclusive in your programming. Reach out to your network, and ask other trusted recruiters to help you fill a position with a quality employee. Furthermore, your recruiters aren’t limited to your current employees. Top clients, retired employees, and stakeholders should also be included in the process. Network with people who know you and your company particularly well.

The same goes for client referrals. If you do a lot of work for or with a particular client, consult them. Talking to this side of your network implies you trust your clientele with important information regarding the company.

Give current employees incentives and rewards for bringing in quality referrals. This doesn’t have to be just a financial compensation. Sometimes, it’s more effective to inject a little humanity into rewards. A company-funded lunch, a handwritten thank you note, or even some public recognition can reinforce positive referrals. In addition, be sure to thank all referred candidates for applying. They may not have been offered the job, but taking the time to recognize their attributes will leave them with a more positive image of your company and might encourage them to try again in the future.

Of course, clients like incentives too. Offer refer-a-friend discounts. Give your clients something tangible to take to their friends. If you’re holding a client-exclusive event, allow your clients to invite friends.

Finally, keep your current employees up to date on all your hiring needs. Give them feedback and offer constructive criticism: tell current employees what you liked most about their candidate and maybe what you had trouble with. Your most trusted clients should also be kept somewhat in the loop too, which brings us back to communication.

See? We’ve come full circle, and I didn’t even have to tell you about the time I had Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” stuck in my head for two hours. Not the whole song, mind you, just the first five words of the chorus.

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