The staffing industry has been talking about the importance of the candidate experience for decades. This directive from a 2006 ERE article could’ve been written today:

“If recruiters are unwittingly losing candidates or starting them off on the wrong foot, now’s the time to stop.”

Unfortunately for many staffing firms, poor candidate experience didn’t go out of fashion alongside hot pink Razrs and iPod nanos. Industry-wide, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. A 2019 Candidate Experience Report of over 4,000 candidates has the receipts:

  • 63% were dissatisfied with the communication they received through the application process
  • 69% who had a poor experience would rarely or never reapply
  • 69% said they would share a bad candidate experience with others

Building a great candidate experience doesn’t end when talent makes their first placement. Your referral program is a key avenue for turning your newest employee into a lifelong ambassador for your brand. And just as a poor onboarding experience can push your candidates away, a difficult or confusing referral process can drive your talent — and their entire network — into the arms of your competitor.

Here’s how staffing software with referral automation can help you create the kind of referral program experience that makes your candidates entrust their network of family, friends, and colleagues to you.

Referral automation increases transparency so candidates always know where they stand with you

For many staffing firms, transparency throughout the referral process is a huge issue. Candidates may not know if their referrals have been received, if their referred colleague has been hired, or if (or when) they’ll get their referral bonus. 

As you can imagine, this amount of uncertainty is not a hallmark of a good experience. 

The culprit? For most agencies, the referral program requires too much heavy lifting from recruiters, who have too much on their plates already. Manual programs also rely too heavily on human data inputs, which are prone to error. 

This means that, despite the best efforts of recruiters, analog programs may fail to reliably give candidates the insights they expect into the referral process. And since we already know that candidates complain of poor communication and lack of transparency in recruitment processes, it’s critical that referral programs aren’t part of the same problem.

That’s where automated referral programs come in. They take the guesswork out of the referral process so that both candidates and recruiters can see where anyone is in the process with the click of a button:

  • Ambassadors can track their referrals throughout the process
  • Ambassadors can encourage their referred friends to apply for jobs
  • Ambassadors can gain insight into when their referrals will pay out
  • Recruiters and managers have a single source of truth to verify referrals
  • Recruiters can track their performance and gauge how successful they are at making referral placements compared to the rest of the team
Diverse young people sitting in row on couch together obsessed with devices online, african and caucasian millennial addicts using laptops and smartphones, digital life and gadgets overuse concept

Referral automation fosters trust so candidates know you always have their backs

Where there’s a lack of transparency, there also tends to be a lack of trust. Every referral program makes promises — e.g., to take care of a candidate’s family and friends, to send out timely reward bonuses. But candidates are often in the dark about whether these promises are kept.

An analog referral program often leads to inconsistencies, at best, and black holes, at worst. 

Inconsistencies make your firm look unprofessional, which for candidates who partner with you on something as important as their careers, is enough to make them question their relationship with your firm. 

But, if a candidate feels like their referrals disappear entirely, they may think your firm is intentionally misleading them or deliberately cheating them out of a bonus. More than losing a single candidate, a referral experience this poor can create an active detractor, spreading the bad news about your firm to their friends.

On the flip side, automated referral programs help foster trust between staffing firms and candidates. 

  • Automated communication throughout the process helps candidates know you keep your word
  • Referral tracking helps candidates and recruiters share a single source of truth
  • Bonus tracking helps firms pay candidates on time

Referral automation provides more opportunities for candidates and increases earnings

The most successful referral programs don’t place a whole lot of work on candidates. Some analog programs out there rely on an old, broken model that can be summed up as “tell us who referred you” or “enter a bunch of your friends’ email addresses right now.” Both of those require time and energy, neither of which anyone has in spades these days.

This is the kind of poor experience that might not immediately raise flags for your candidates. Instead, they simply won’t participate, put off by the effort you require of them. 

Automated referral programs have a clear advantage here: they make it extremely easy for candidates to become lean, mean recruiting machines for their agencies. 

By simply sharing their referral link via email, social, or even in their email signatures, candidates can easily build up referrals and earn multiple bonuses without even trying. Automation also expands their reach, setting them up for the kind of success that makes them keep coming back to refer more and more. 

And of course, the bonus for your firm is that this success expands your reach, too.

Referral automation builds loyalty and a sense of belonging

In the competitive recruitment landscape, any way that you can build loyalty is an advantage over the competition. How does this relate to your referral program?

People like to have their friends involved in what they do. If you can help candidates expand their reach and bring more of their own community into your firm, it can create a greater sense of belonging. This is deepened when it’s reflected back to them by their peers — they’ll have built-in social proof that others approve of your firm and what you do. 

Automated referral programs can act as an engine to power this kind of loyalty to your firm. When you’re seen treating people right (such as keeping people updated on progress and ensuring they get paid on time), candidates will want to continue to invite more and more of their connections into the fold. 

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, nearly 70% of people who had a poor experience wouldn’t reapply to a firm. Loyalty is the antidote to this fall-off: by creating a stronger community through your referral program, you enhance your candidate experience. Even those who weren’t successful in landing a job with you the first time might be encouraged to keep trying, strengthening your pipeline that much more. 

Referral automation

Referral automation proves you’re staying in tune with the times and that you’re tech-savvy

In an age when we are increasingly online and reliant on technology that functions smoothly, technical errors, clunky processes, or even lack of automation can reflect poorly on a business. For example, 56% of candidates have experienced a technical issue or error in their job application process, and for many, this caused them to end their job search with the glitching firm.

Your firm’s tech choices don’t just affect your internal team — they’re differentiators when it comes to creating a strong candidate experience. Out-moded processes and poor technology can color talent’s impression of your firm — that you’re not as technologically forward as you should be or as your competitors are. If a firm isn’t perceived as forward-thinking, the candidate might equate an “old school” experience with a poor experience. 

In this sense, an automated referral program can help your reputation by proving that you’re at the cutting edge of recruitment technology. It’s reassuring to candidates to know that your staffing firm has moved out of the dark ages of tedious analog systems and is committed to choosing technology that improves their experience.

The bottom line is that automating your referral process can help to improve your candidate experience, which boosts ROI from referrals and gives you a competitive advantage. The best candidates often come via referrals so they deserve a white glove treatment.