What do the best staffing referral programs have in common?

We’re talking about the programs that are well-oiled machines, providing a regular pipeline of high-quality candidates for staffing firms. What sets them apart from programs that don’t move the needle?

Here are a few traits the best referral programs have in common.

Candidates and recruiters want to participate

This may seem obvious, but if there’s one overarching characteristic of great referral programs, it’s that people participate in them. Without enthusiastic candidates (brand ambassadors), referral programs are worthless.

Often, a new referral program starts off strong — recruiters promote it widely and candidates enthusiastically join in. But, after that initial push, participation falters. Recruiters begin to forget about the program, or they’re simply too busy to prioritize it. Without regular outreach, candidates may also forget about it — or decide to send their referrals to companies with a more consistent process instead.

So, how do you avoid these pitfalls? Here’s how to keep your whole organization engaged.

Great referral programs are easy for recruiters to promote

To be successful, your recruiters need to believe in the program and feel good about promoting it. They also have to be invested, meaning that they want to follow through and ensure that referrals are treated well.

But that’s only the beginning. No matter how much your recruiters believe in your program, if it’s difficult to promote or if you rely on recruiter memory to make it work, you’ll get, at best, inconsistent results. At worst, your referral program will be dead in the water.

The best programs harness technology to take some of the burden off of recruiters. By giving your recruiters tools to automate the rote aspects of the program, you create a recruiter-friendly system that can be integrated unobtrusively into your team’s existing workflows. For example, by automating repeated tasks such as outreach emails to candidates, you can free up your team’s time to follow up on referral leads and build the relationships your firm needs to grow.

Referral programs

Candidates get what they expect — and then some

Speaking of relationships, no one in staffing is in the dark about the importance of building strong connections in creating a great candidate experience. Without happy candidates, you won’t have any brand ambassadors to refer new candidates. Referral programs thrive on the kind of experience that makes it hard for your talent not to talk about how great you are.

First and foremost, your referral program needs to work just like it says it will. If a brand ambassador feels like they’ve been “had” (for example, because someone dropped the ball and didn’t attribute the referral correctly), then that’s probably it for them. They’re not going to make any more referrals, and they may even tell others not to bother. Worst case scenario, they may start looking for another staffing agency to work with.

The best referral programs gain the trust of candidates and encourage more referrals.

Here’s how to build trust throughout the referral experience:

  • Communicate clearly and make good on your promises
  • Remove all barriers to participation and make the program as straightforward as possible
  • Create a transparent system that allows candidates to know where they are in the referral process
  • Pay referral bonuses and rewards in a timely manner
  • Give all referrals a gold-star experience — strive to turn them into ambassadors, too

A critical part of the candidate experience when it comes to referrals is that there should be no “black hole” for referrals to disappear into. To prevent this from happening, you can use an automated referral management system. This eliminates the mental energy required from your recruiters and the potential for lost referrals.

The program is well-designed

Beyond delivering a reliable experience, successful referral programs are crafted with their users in mind.

To create an enjoyable user experience, be mindful of these pitfalls that can drive even the happiest candidates away:

  • Too many steps to participate. If candidates are expected to fill out lengthy contact forms for each referral or if they have to manually send emails, you’re going to have a big drop off in participation. People are busy. Even with the best of intentions, they’ll leave the “long” process until later and then probably forget about it.
  • An unfair reward structure. If they have to wait for months after a successful hire to get a minimal payout, the effort might not feel worth the payout.
  • Lack of transparency over how the program works. Many companies leave candidates in the dark about whether they’ve reached out to referrals, when payouts might be coming, etc.
  • Lack of clarity on who you’re looking for. A call for referrals that’s too general will fail because it leaves people guessing about who to refer. In the end, this does nothing but fill your recruiters’ plate with applicants that aren’t a good fit.

Here’s what to do instead:

  • Think fast, simple, and user-friendly. Instead of manual emails, empower candidates with a unique referral link that they can share with just a click.
  • Create a fair reward system. Referral programs that offer bonuses both to the referring candidates and to their friends often have higher engagement because they’re win-win.
  • Articulate your expectations clearly. Go out of your way to make sure brand ambassadors and candidates know what to expect.
  • Be specific about who you are looking for. This will save everyone — the brand ambassadors, the candidates, and your recruiters — a lot of time.
Referral programs

One of the best ways to deliver on all of these things is to have an automated referral program in place. If you’d like to learn more about how Staffing Referrals can facilitate a best-practice referral program, request a demo here.