For a lot of organizations, employee referrals are desirable sources of hard-to-find job candidates. Why referrals? For starters, referrals come recommended as a good match for your posting—having a little knowledge about and an employee’s recommendation for a possible applicant is better than starting out with zero information.
You should also think of references as the new referrals – potential candidates hand-picked by applicants to vouch for their abilities, knowledge, and soft skills. They worked with or managed your candidate, and they’re respected enough to be listed as references. This makes them highly targeted mostly being in the same industry or job role as the candidate. At this stage, you can have at least some degree of confidence the applicant’s reference is a potential good fit.
Many of the same pluses apply if you consider referrals when you’re checking your job applicants’ references. Absent expenditures for advertising and job board fees, it costs less for employers to hire an employee referral. Also, it takes less time to hire a referral versus prospects from other sources. And, after coming on board, studies show employee referrals stay in their positions longer than other new hires. It stands to reason that references may have been through same training, same management and same industry expertise as the candidate that could lead to stickier hires.
As an added bonus, references represent an exponentially growing source for referrals. If you’re checking 3 to 5 references for every candidate – which is simple when you’re using digital reference checking solutions – and some 20-30 percent opt-in to your talent pool when invited, you have a steady growing pipeline. And, with effective communications, references can be a very willing audience, whether they’re potentially thinking about making a switch, or open to hearing about your organization’s opportunities. Lever’s Recruiting Benchmark Report notes that, when approached about a new career opportunity, 90% of people currently in jobs are willing to at least have a conversation with a recruiter to learn more.
There are great cost-savings that come with hiring references, too. A direct hire from your own internal talent database can save thousands versus hiring via an agency or spending on job listings, advertising costs and paying agencies fees, among other expenses.
To successfully recruit, hire and on-board references, it’s important to create processes for identifying, easily communicating with and then nurturing your passive candidates until they’re ready to make a switch to your organization. Here are five suggestions to help you find passive candidates from your pool of candidate references:
1. Make it easy to engage. With digital reference checking and sourcing technology, you can build references’ interest in working for your organization as you’re requesting feedback on your applicant. In your emails, use simple, clickable opt-in links to make it as easy as possible to invite references to check out your company’s career site, social media (According to SHRM statistics, “recruiting passive job candidates” is the top reason (82%) organizations use social media for recruiting.), social professional networks (like LinkedIn) and other avenues. Bear in mind: The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) says 79% of candidates use social media, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and other sites, during their job search. Best of all, with reference checking technology, you’re automatically building a talent database that is up to date with potential candidates' latest job role and contact information.
2. Shine up your employer brand. First impressions are extremely important if you’re hoping references (or any potential new candidates) will investigate a new job at your company. That’s why your employer brand needs to be top-rate. (A Glassdoor U.S. Site Survey found that 69% of active job seekers are likely to apply for a position if an employer does a good job managing its employer brand.) Keep your brand front and center in every communication – including reference reach-out. When was the last time you created new content or updated existing content showcasing your employer brand? Is it time to polish your career page, job listings, statements on corporate culture and values, company reviews, and employee profiles?
3. Nurture new passive candidates. Once you make contact and your references and other potential candidates opt-in, you’ll increase your chances of hiring an interested individual if you keep the relationship alive. No ghosting here! Use effective, creative and engaging content to keep them interested in your website and potential employment opportunities over the long-term. After sending an initial welcome/thank you email and introducing your career page, create a series of subsequent, scheduled emails (spaced reasonably apart, e.g. monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly to avoid creating spam vibes) that discuss your company’s values and culture; highlight specific employees, divisions or teams; describe new job openings; explain your organizations products or services; and any news about product or company milestones, industry awards and other kinds of recognition. The idea is to help them answer their own question: “Why do I want to work here?” Of course, these emails should include links to your career site, videos, corporate blogs and customer testimonials.
4. Let technology handle the logistics. The best way to stay on top of managing your passive candidate relationships is with interactive technology and professional pipeline-level email campaigns that can be automatically scheduled. Also helpful is automation to track the history of outgoing and incoming emails for passive candidates and manage bounced emails and opt-outs. Tying it all together, look for tools that feature a cloud-based dashboard to monitor feedback and other results. Simplify administration and management by integrating with your ATS and CRM technology.
5. Let passive candidates decide when to interview. Remember: these folks are busy working their current jobs. Once you get interest from a passive candidate to interview, don’t scare them off with your hurried timeline for an interview. If it’s forced and candidates don’t have time to prepare or they aren’t yet sure about coming in, you may lose your prospect. In LinkedIn’s 2017 Inside the Mind of Today’s Candidate survey, 65% of 14,000 professionals polled said a bad interview made them lose interest in the position. Why let your eagerness risk it all? One suggestion: Invite your passive candidate to an introductory telephone or video conference call and then, when they’re ready, schedule an in-person interview.
Today’s super-low unemployment rate is making it exceptionally challenging for HR professionals to find and retain good talent. By seeking new channels to recruit effectively and applying an ‘always on’ approach to building your own talent network, you can expand your reach. Luckily, passive candidates from your existing applicants’ references are often a rich source of prospects. Smart marketing strategies and technology to help nurture resulting relationships can make it easier to hire the best and brightest passive candidates.