Use Referrals to Land Your Next Job AND Your Next Hire

Since employee referrals count for nearly 40% of new hires this year, why aren’t referrals used by more job seekers and employers?

What’s your conclusion when you consider these recent hiring statistics from Zippia?

  • 30 to 40% of an employer’s new hires come from candidates referred to them by other employees.
  • Just 6% of an employer’s candidate pool comes from employee referrals.

Consider the Enormous Benefits

Both employers and job seekers win when employee referrals are optimized. 

Employers benefit in these areas:

  • Referral hires reduce the average cost of recruitment by more than $1,000 per hire, even after paying a referral bonus to the referrer of $500 – $5,000.
  • Referral candidates come from trusted sources who can provide additional insight as to why a specific referral would make a good hire and fit the employer’s culture.
  • Referred candidates take about 13 days less to hire than non-referred candidates.
  • Referred hires tend to stay 70% longer than do non-referred hires.

Referral job seekers benefit in these areas:

  1. They have an internal sponsor who can give them an insider’s perspective on what working there is like, the employer’s stability, and a sense of future anticipated growth opportunities.
  2. The time from introduction to being hired is considerably shorter when referred than applying from a posting on a job board or employer’s website.
  3. The chances of getting a job interview if referred is 72%, compared to less than 5% if applying online for the same job.
  4. Referred candidates onboard about 20% faster than non-referred candidates, so they enjoy job success faster.

Conclusion: there are enormous benefits to both the job seeker and to the employer is the recruitment method is via referral. 


An Employer’s Strategy

Employers need to develop a well-defined employee referral strategy and Employee Referral Program (ERP) that includes:

  1. Referral bonus. Determine what the total referral bonus should be (some employers base this on a percentage of the base compensation for the open position; others use a flat amount). Regardless of amount and method, I suggest three payments to be made to the referring employee as a percent of the total referral bonus: 1) 10% when the referral candidate participates in an initial hiring manager interview; 2) 25% when the individual is hired and completes 90 days on the job; and 3) 65% when the new hire completes 9 months on the job.  Make sure your process is simple and easily understood.
  2. Referral program communication plan. My experience is that less than one in five employees know that their employer is actively recruiting for positions and what those positions are.  Managers must make it a point to highlight the employee referral bonus often, emphasizing both the additional income opportunities and the positive career benefits to employees who refer good candidates.  HR and senior leaders need to regularly remind employees of the referral program and the positive culture being built because we hire referrals.
  3. Make it Part of Performance Evaluation. Employees who actively source good referrals should be rated more highly than employees who don’t refer candidates, and this should be a factor in evaluating employees and managers for advancement.  Publicize this as a benefit for working there.
  4. Isolate Faces for People to See. If I ask you, “who do you know who might make a good candidate for XXX position,” I’m asking you to sort through thousands of people you have met during your life.  But people will come to your mind much more easily if I ask you, “I recall you belong to XXX organization.  The last time you were there, who did you see that might make a good candidate for XXX position.” In other words, a referral program best practices is to use an employee’s affiliations, locations, and activities to help them isolate faces for them to see as potential referral candidates.

A Job Seeker’s Strategy

Only 18% of job seekers actively seek to be referred to employers.  The larger your network of strong relationships, the greater your opportunities to get referred will become.  Large networks present a huge opportunity for job seekers to get referred into a position, especially the higher level and specialty positions.  All of which means active participation on LinkedIn and other popular networks.

You cannot use a network until you’ve built one, so no matter where you are in your career, it is never too late to start building or expanding your network.  The most successful people “collect people” throughout their careers

Here are eight steps job seekers to consider in order to become a referred candidate:

  1. Indentify the employers for whom you’d like to work. If you don’t have specific employers in mind, look at best employer lists from Forbes, Fortune, Glassdoor, industry association websites, or Google best employers in {City}.”
  2. Identify which employers have an employee referral program. Try contacting the employer’s HR department or receptionist by telephone or email, and asking whether or not it has an employee referral program.  
  3. Determine who you know who works there. This could include people known by the people you know (i.e., second level connections).  LinkedIn is the perfect platform for this, using the Advanced Search function.
  4. Invite the person to become first level connections with you. Make sure to use a personalized invitation stating why a connection might be of interest to them, rather than sending the default invitation message.
  5. Begin building a relationship with that person. Do this the way you would with anyone – reach out to them by email, InMail, or phone and ask them a question or two in areas of mutual interest.   Join the LinkedIn groups they belong to.  Contribute to the discussions in which they participate.  But don’t send them a resume…yet.  You need to build your relationship first.
  6. Once your relationship is solidly established, request an informational meeting to learn more about their company and the work there. Meet virtually, in-person, or via telephone. Ask questions and take good notes. 
  7. Make sure to thank them for meeting with you. Keep in touch!
  8. As you get to know one another they may ask you about career plans, which is the perfect time to introduce the possibility of them sending your resume to their HR department as part of the employer’s referral program. Again, thank them and keep in touch.


Bottom line: Employers and job seekers should recognize the tremendous opportunity that referrals present for tilling position and finding jobs.  This strategy is not designed to produce instant results, but results after you’ve put your respective plan into action and allowed it to gain traction.  Everybody wins when referrals are a core strategy in staffing open positions and finding a great career.

About me: For the past 25 years I’ve worked with some of the world’s top employers by helping them get the most out of their talented people. My company’s extensive leadership development course catalog provides effective skills-building for everyone in the organization, from the new / developing leader to the seasoned C-level executive. My company’s coaching programs produce significant results in compressed periods of time. Over the last decade our B2B Sales Essentials™ program has won numerous awards.  I also help job seekers, higher ed, and employment services connect people to better jobs faster. My company’s highly regarded career development tools help people navigate the ever-changing landscape of conducting a successful job search.  To find out more, please visit us at, email us at, or call us at 215-942-0982.


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