Referees, despised on a football field,..loved in recruitment?

2 March 2011

Jon Gregory

Jon Gregory

Former Consultant

Recruiting staff at any level is, to some extent, a risk. Quite often roles are handled by agencies, so there is no direct contact between the candidate and employer at the start of the process. We hear horror stories about agencies submitting fake employees (or fake skills) and this can have serious consequences. It is vital to reference and qualify a candidate’s credentials as much as possible.

So how can we reduce risks in recruitment and try to ensure that companies are recruiting the right people for the right roles from both a skills and cultural-fit perspective?

The power of referrals

The answer to the latter may lie in referrals. These may come from an employee, customer or other stakeholder who has a sound knowledge and understanding of the company. This is important in order to be able to recommend a candidate and be confident that their skills are aligned to the business requirements.

If an employee of the business has worked with someone on a previous project, they are likely to know more around the candidate’s:

  • Skill-set
  • Cultural values
  • Motivations for a new position

However, a third party recruiter is likely to sell these in the following way:

  • He/she has 5 years experience in xxx
  • He/she has a great work ethic
  • He/she wants to work for a company like Bluefin Solutions

This doesn’t tell us much about a candidate, other than what they think we want to hear and in vague detail too. A referee is able to tell us much more, and perhaps even provide examples. As an employer who has core values at the heart of the business, it is crucial that these values are demonstrated, and even more beneficial for the employer if approved by a referee.

Everyone benefits

From an employer’s perspective, referrals are a great way to recruit. The introduction is warm and qualified, and takes away some of the rigorous screening necessary in interviews. In addition, instead of paying agencies/recruiters large fees, employers can reward employees for helping to bring great people in to the business. Having such a scheme really benefits companies who want to generate a wide candidate pool.

The candidate should hopefully then feel that they are interviewing with a company that suits them in terms of role and cultural fit. Furthermore, the familiarity with the business, and possibly the employees, should help to ease them in to the new position (if hired).

So what’s in it for a referee?

It’s important that the referral process benefits all stakeholders, and this includes those that introduce candidates. Otherwise, why would they bother?

Firstly, there’s a feeling that the referee has introduced a person to the business that will add value, and this will hopefully provide a feel good factor.

Secondly, the referee should be rewarded tangibly for finding great people. Rewards can be monetary or otherwise. This should also work as a two way process – we should reward people who find candidates, and this should also incentivise potential referees to dig deeper in to their networks to find people. If someone sees a referee being rewarded with a referral fee, they are much more likely to take details of people they work with in projects, and get in touch with contacts when vacancies arise.

Now – just do it!

A referral scheme is key to a successful direct hire strategy and benefits all involved in the recruitment process. In addition, an effective and well promoted scheme can reduce recruitment costs and increase networks.

Even if you are not 100% sure about someone’s skill set, it’s always worth mentioning their name to your recruitment or HR team. You never know, they might already be known to someone within the organisation, or might be easily referenceable through contacts.

Next time you work with a great consultant, sit in on a great presentation, or come across anyone you think will benefit your employer, take their details – it might turn out to be a nice little earner for you.

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