Table of Content
  1. 1. Educate Employees on the Power and Importance of Referrals
  2. 2. Incentivize and Reward Employees
  3. 3. Have Company Referral Events
  4. 4. Make it Easy for Employees to Submit Referrals
  5. 5. Use Referral and Recruiting Tools
  6. Conclusion

Ideas for a Great Employee Referral Program

We often talk about referrals as part of the gospel of good recruiting. The benefit of hiring through referrals is manifold. Of course, one of the most important reasons to do so is because it gives you an added guarantee of the value of a potential recruit. Additionally, having someone referred to you by a professional contact you know and trust can help weed out candidates who don’t fit in with your company’s culture. Lastly, due to the above two reasons, referrals can be hired on more quickly as well.

But finding the best means of getting referrals can be a trial and error process. You may have professional contacts at other companies, but unless they are good friends of yours, they may not feel the necessity of helping you out. This is why an excellent employee referral program is an important part of an HR team’s hiring strategy. For one, employee referrals tend to have a higher retention rate than traditional hires. This kind of recruiting tactic can also boost your company’s overall profile as it engages employees to take an active role in the hiring process. Furthermore, employee referrals are far less expensive and time-consuming than the alternatives, and they can ensure a better, more cooperative team.

In order to help you start getting lots of great new referrals, below are five suggestions for creating and implementing your own employee referral program.

1. Educate Employees on the Power and Importance of Referrals

Educating and training employees on the importance of referrals will motivate them to help the company out. Promote your referral policy to employees and be sure to make it user-friendly. Let them know that employee referrals have the power to increase happiness and positivity in the workplace because they are generally a better cultural fit. This is one of a number of essential qualities that makes someone a good hire.

Make sure that you are continuously informing your employees about why and how to make referrals. Being aware that recruits referred by employees are much more likely to produce high quality work and stay longer in their positions. This is great motivation for team members who are dedicated to moving the company forward.

2. Incentivize and Reward Employees

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to just tell your employees how great referrals are. You will probably need to add incentives as well. This is generally devised as a referral bonus system, ideally in which employee engagement is rewarded, rather than the results of their referrals. This is important in that it motivates team members to continue referring great candidates and makes them feel valued.

Bonuses aren’t always the best choice, though, so sometimes you will need to get a bit more creative and think of non-monetary incentives for employees. One idea is to make it fun so that your team will want to participate. For example, the content marketing startup Yotpo boosted their internal referrals by hosting a Rapid-Fire Referral Game. Employees were given ten minutes to answer a set of questions that helped produce a number of referrals they may never have even thought of before. In another case, Google found that doubling referral bonuses was not working the way it was intended. Instead, they utilized “aided recall,” in which numerous questions about specific roles at the company forced employees to think of more friends, relatives, and others they could refer. This tactic increased their referral volume by more than one-third.

3. Have Company Referral Events

Company events can serve a double purpose: they are a chance to reward your employees for their hard work and also to invite guests who might have an interest in the work the company does. Organizing an actual referral event enables the people being referred to meet hiring managers, as well as other employees.

A referral event has several advantages over other strategies. Depending on what kind of event you organize, they can be more cost effective. Hosting a referral event also allows you to control the quality of those being invited in that you can target a certain position or department with the theme of your activity. Of course, this presents the opportunity to build relationships with excellent potential recruits.

The possibilities for themes are almost endless. In one case, Salesforce hosts a happy hour where employees invite people they want to refer.

4. Make it Easy for Employees to Submit Referrals

You want more referrals, and your employees want to provide them. Your objective should be to make that as simple as possible. Your company should have a clear referral policy and process so employees don’t get confused and you can avoid potential conflicts related to bonuses.

Referral policies streamline the process of receiving and reviewing employee referrals. They may include rules of how to submit referrals to HR, who is allowed to participate in the program, and a first-come, first-serve rule for payment of bonuses, among others.

Part of this policy could be the use of an in-house referral tool or some other HR method. As long as employees have easy access to it, you’re on the right track.

5. Use Referral and Recruiting Tools

HR tools can be simple, intuitive, and time-saving, making it easy for your employees to get referrals for the company. More importantly, they can help engage your employees, drive transparency in referral bonus allocation, and increase the number of referrals you receive.
Using a referral or recruiting tool online makes it easy to connect with others. One idea is trying out Jobalaya. We encourage you to join the mailing list and be informed when the beta version is ready!


Getting referrals can indeed be tricky business. Running through a list of professional contacts on a regular basis may or may not get you the results you’re looking for. This is what makes having a great employee referral program so important. Giving your team the power to introduce prospective hires not only has the potential the improve the quality of referrals you receive, but can also boost overall company standards and give all employees a stake in its future.

Jeremy Olivier
I'm a writer and musician based in Taipei. You can just as easily find me curled up on the couch with a good book as you can bounding down a rural Taiwan mountain trail. I have a bachelor's degree in history and an MA in Asia Studies.