I work with the hiring manager every single day and referrals are the number one thing that they ask when we start to review the candidates for their jobs. They give priority to internal employees and referrals. Why referrals? The reason when asked they all said synonymously that referrals tend to perform better and stay longer.

Employee referrals are the greatest source of high-quality talent. And it is the cheapest and fastest ways to hire. And it is also one of the Top three sources of hires for many organizations out there. So if you haven’t yet strategized on your employee referral program then the time is NOW!

When thinking about creating a referral program everybody thinks it is costly and employees won’t take part if you don’t lure them in with attractive incentives and bonus. But below are some ways for you to boost your employee referral program with less budget.

8 ways to boost your employee referrals with less budget

Your team is your best recruiters

When a position becomes open in a team encourage the team first to reach out to their network. Have them share the open position on their social media platforms, to former colleagues, or any groups or associations that they are part of. Train them in terms of having an initial conversation with someone who would approach them to learn more about the open opportunity. This way you will be able to start with a list of referred and qualified candidates first and don’t have to sift through hundreds of job applications that may or may not be a right fit.

Turn your employees into recruiters

Everybody is a recruiter in your organization. Your employees are your number one brand advocates who can help attract and connect you with right fit candidates. Make sure your employees know that you value their recommendations and prefer referred candidates. Promoting the job internally to your employees can help increase the number of referrals that you get. If you have an internal newsletter or any other communications platform that you can use then use that platform to promote the job internally, let them know what you are looking for and arm them with an elevator pitch. Have your employees know that you need their help to bring in the next family member.

Make it easier to refer

Make it easier for your employees and anyone who lands on your job posting site to share the job out to their network and submit a referral to you. Use a simple process/technology where employees can share the name, contact details of the preferred candidate with you and the information gets automatically populated in your ATS (Applicant Tracking System). This way it is easier for the employees to submit a referral and the recruiters to have the information in one place.

Make it part of the culture

Have your leadership team share the jobs among their team and ask for the referral that way it is happening from the top down and it’s been weaved into the culture. The best employee referral program I have heard is back in the 80s before the emergence of all HR tech where one of the recruiters threw in a pizza party and gathered all leadership team, hiring managers and the team members to share some referrals. So if you don’t have a fancy technology in place, throw in a pizza party and network with your employees and have them share contacts/referrals to you. It may sound a little old school but employee get-togethers create engagement and your employees will be invested in bringing their friends and network to work with them.  

Leverage company events & Community events

Showcase your brand presence in the external events like job fairs, campus recruiting, trade shows or conferences. Raising brand awareness externally will help attendees to interact with your team, learn more about the organization and work culture and cultivate a desire to join the team. External gatherings can get an opportunity for your employees to build a rapport, get to know each other and take some time away from work. This way you will have happy employees out in the field networking and creating positive impressions about your brand attracting more talent.  

Customize the referral bonus/rewards

There are several tricks to increase the referrals and monetary reward/bonus/incentives have been at the top. It is not about money always. Chances are the bonus/incentive might encourage your employees to bring in more referrals but it may not be a right fit one. Instead tailor the reward according to the employees need, reward a few days off, a vacation to an exotic place, fund a cause of the employees choice etc.

Come up with a strategy that works for the organization for a long time and helps employees to refer the right one. Godady.com increased referrals by lowering the referral bonus from $3,000 for corporate employees to $1,000. Instead, they used the money to invest in technology for marketing the referral program. They encouraged employees to share employer branding content and job postings and tracked employee sharing. When employees frequently shared company content and jobs, GoDaddy’s Power referrers won #socialrecruiter” t-shirts.

Ask for referrals during the interview

Asking referrals at every stage of the interviews can go a long way. When you are connecting with a candidate who is well-networked in their field can help you spread the word and refer someone she knows. Great talent attracts great talent. The seasoned recruiters would sit with the new hire to get some names and contacts from new hire’s network who would possibly a great fit for the current and future open positions. This will help you do a targeted approach and nurture a pool of network who are connected to a specific type of role that you are trying to fill

Use employee ambassadors to promote your employer brand

Provide great employee experience to your employees and then everything will fall in its place. If employees are having a great time working with you then they will surely be spreading the word and helping their friends and network find their dream job with you. Build an employee ambassador program to share the testimonials of your best-performing employees and how they were able to find a fulfilling career with you. Empower your employee ambassadors to promote your employer brand and help employees share why yours a great place to work.

For more recruiting and interview insights, join us in San Francisco this January 30 - February 1, 2019, at #SRSC where talent acquisition leaders connect to leverage emerging recruiting practices.

Nisha Raghavan is the Talent Attraction and Employer Branding Specialist at the American Heart Association. Prior to this, she worked in the telecommunications and media industry to help attract, engage and retain talent. She writes about her Global HR experiences at her blog Your HR Buddy!! Connect with her on LinkedIn and on Twitter at @TheHrbuddy