The Best Employee Referral Form, Ever!

The employee referral program is the one program that 90% of all HR shops fail at – consistently.

It’s not that employee-candidate referral programs are hard to come up with.

In fact, that is the reason they fail so often — because they are easy to come up with!

Being easy to design makes everyone think they have a better widget when it comes to referral programs.

Couple that with HR’s insistent need for process and Employee (aka Candidate) Referral Programs are the perfect storm of bad HR!

I’ll give you an example:

Billy in HR has decided you need a new Candidate Referral Program (CRP) — because all great programs have an acronym. The CRP, or code name ‘CRaP’, will get you so many more great candidate referrals from your employees.

It starts out with that simple idea — we need more candidate referrals. Ok. So, how do we do that?

We need to get the person’s name; current employer; current title; contact information – phone, email, fax, mailing address, etc.; date on which employee gave referral; exact time on when referral came in – preferably time stamped (because you know the same person could referred by two or more employees); What relationship employee has with referral; etc.; etc.; etc.

Put all of that on a form and send it out to our employees. Also, put on the form they get a $500 bonus after the person has been working with us for 90 days.

That is how CRaP is created!

We can do better! We have to do better. Please God tell me we can do better! Here’s how:

The Best Employee Referral Form, Ever!

Where talent acquisition teams go wrong

You want to attract the best and the brightest talent to your organization and you show off your employer brand to potential candidates all the time.

But here’s a truth. Your employer brand starts from the inside of your organization.

If you want your employees to be motivated enough to refer highly-skilled, awesome people to your organization, then you need to make the referral process effortless for them. If your organization is truly the best place to work, then make your referral program and process reflect that point. Make it the best referral program ever.

Where we (talent acquisition teams) go wrong on Candidate Referral Programs is that we ask our employees to do all the work. Our talent acquisition team should be doing the work and has the background to do the work.

Just get a name and place of employment and then get to work! Don’t get bogged down on details.

Instead, get bogged down on too many referrals! You know what? You might have some dual referral issues – fine – deal with those in an adult manner — pay twice if you have to — but don’t put in a bunch of rules!

Ask this one question to every job candidate

One last nugget of advice: get your recruiters to start asking this one question to every single candidate they speak with:

“Tell me a name of someone you work with now or at your last job?”  (Then have them shut up, not say another word, and write down the name.) 

It’s not: “Hey, do you know of anyone looking?” The answer to that question is always, “No!”

No one can say “no” to the request “give me a name of a co-worker.” Everyone knows the names of their current and former co-workers.

Your recruiters might get a ”Why?”, in which, your staff can explain:

“Our company lives on referrals. Your co-worker might not tell you they’re looking, but they will be flattered to hear from me and learn about the position we have open. All I need is a name. I’m a Pro.” 

Think your job candidates will be sweating that they didn’t make a good enough impression and so now your recruiters are asking about other potential candidates? No way. Simply explain that your organization is always on the hunt for the best and the brightest.

Now spill: What’s your beef with employee referral forms?

About Tim Sackett

Tim is the President of HRU Technical Resources, engineering and IT staffing firm in Lansing, MI. He has 20 years of HR and recruiting background split evenly between corporate Fortune 500 gigs and third party staffing gigs. The best performance feedback Tim ever received was that he was “unfiltered and loose in the corners.”  Tim tells it like it is, which means sometimes he calls HR and Talent Pros out on the dumb stuff we do. Catch him weekly at and You can also connect with him on Twitter.

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