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It’s Time to Get Serious about Referral Recruiting – Here’s how!

Put your referral program into overdrive with this step by step guide (plus templates for outreach)!

If you don’t use referrals, you’re missing out on a killer opportunity to pour some rocket fuel on your recruitment process.

Yes, inbound and outbound channels yield amazing hires.

But referral hires

  • Have the highest applicant-to-hire conversion rate at 40 percent.
  • Run with the company longer, with 46 percent staying over one year and 45 percent over two years.
  • Cut the time-to-hire to 29 days from 55.

There’s more…

  • Industry giants like Google, Intel, and Accenture do referral recruitment.
  • Thought leaders like Patrick Burke (Pebble), Tim Diss (Facebook), and Theresa Singh (Asana) also use it.

Now, do you want to access hiring excellence? Strap in. This is going to be a fun ride.

Put Lead Generation on Autopilot

Imagine a constant pipeline of qualified candidates… wouldn’t that be nice? The good news is you’re about to learn how to make this happen.

Spotlight Open Positions

Employees kind of know what internal roles are open and they kind of know who might be a good fit. The result is underwhelming. Passive lead generation does not a superb hiring program make. However, you can flip things around and start highlighting open positions at all-hands meetings and in a company newsletter. It’ll help employees connect the dots.

Sample of an internal newsletter that lists the open jobs within the company.

Go on LinkedIn

An average employee has 100 or so LinkedIn connections. Put another way, if you have 50 employees, you can reach 5000 potential hires without lifting a finger. Here’s how: Encourage employees to like your job posts and link their LinkedIn accounts with the company’s page (see how). It’ll help employees stay on top of things and help your openings gain traction.

Example of a linkedin post wherein an employee talks about an open position at her company.

Use an Internal Jobboard.

If you’re a massive company with offices sprinkled across the globe, internal jobboards can offer a lifeline and make passive referral hiring Hulk-level strong.

Example of a job board  for employees. The user can sort by location or department.

Skip the Referral Bonus and Focus on Culture

You may want to lightsaber cash incentives. Aleksandra Włodarczyk, HR Specialist /Recruiter at ResumeLab explains why: “If you promise employees $1K for a successful referral, they won’t care if their friends make a great fit. They’ll want the bonus.”

However, If employees feel they work in a hip company, they’ll naturally want to intro others.

Tap into Employee Networks

You’ve made it to the juicy part. Put your party pants on because you’re about to discover a magical path to next-level referral recruiting. Consider making this part of onboarding. Remember, if you don’t sit down with a new employee to fish out referrals, you’ll walk right past low-hanging fruit.

Need proof? PURE (American property insurance company) gets a whopping 40-60 percent of hires via early referral. You can too. Here’s how:

1) Create a spreadsheet.

Example of a google spreadsheet with columns titled 'referrer' 'name' 'linkedin' 'email address' 'role' 'status'

2) Sit together and comb through an employee’s network on LinkedIn.

The key is to ask ultra-specific questions: We’re looking for a [Content Marketing Specialist] to [write high-quality guest posts for major outlets]. Do you know anyone like that in [Chicago]?

3) Extract the basic info.

Record the connection’s name and LinkedIn URL by dropping them into the spreadsheet.

4) Fish out email addresses.

To do this, you must first get the staffer to login to LinkedIn, click ‘See connections’, and do a first-degree network search.

screenshot of a linkedin profile with an arrow to 'see connections' button located to the right of the screen under the cover photo.
Screenshot of  the 'people search' on linkedin with an arrow towards the   degree of connection filter located under the main search bar.

5) Once you pinpoint a potential hire, fire up their profile and click ‘See contact info’.

screenshot of a linkedin profile with an arrow to 'see contact info' button located to the right of the screen under the cover photo.
screenshot of a linkedin profile with the contact info of a connection surfaced.


In the end, you should end up with something like this:

Same google spreadsheet as above only now the columns are filled in with the corresponding information.

Note: You can mine employees’ networks once/twice a year without limiting yourself to new hires. People amass new connections regularly so it’s best to stay plugged in.

Do Outreach Like a Pro

You’ve got a golden list of stellar talent. Next, you need to reach out and sway them to the dark side. Problem? It’s a sucky manual task (especially if you end up with a list of 50+ contacts), but it doesn’t have to be if you use outreach automation tech that lets you create templates, track opens, and schedule follow-ups.

That said, you can do things manually. All it takes is some elbow grease and time.

1) First outreach… time for some heavy-duty action.

When you open the first email, be sure it includes:

  • A note that you’re reaching out because their friend thinks they’re a great fit.
  • What your company does.
  • A link to the job ad.
  • Heavy personalization (no one likes generic messages).

Need an example?

Hi [Marianne],

My name is [Max], and I’m a [content team lead] here at [The Boring Company].

Your friend [Josh] is on my team, and he says you’re killing it when it comes to [writing delicious content that drips with value].

I like people who can [write] like that, so I wanted to reach out and say hi.

[The Boring Company is an infrastructure and tunnel construction company founded by Elon Musk.]

You can learn about our values and culture here: [Link]

Now, I’d love to have you on my team as a [Content Marketing Specialist] to [write about flamethrowers]. You can learn about the role here.

Is that something you’d be interested in?


2) Follow-Up

If there’s no reply after three days then it’s time to circle back and give a nudge.


Hi [Marianne],

Just a quick follow-up in case you missed my last email.

Like I said, your friend [Josh] says you’re a rockstar when it comes to [writing].

With that in mind, I’d LOVE you to join my team.

Details about the role. [Link]

Our values and culture. [Link]

Look forward to hearing back from you.

Thanks a million,


Spongebob doing a double finger gun.

3) When you get a YES, ask the referral to have a little phone chat to screen them.


Hi [Marianne],

Thanks for getting back – I’m super pumped.

Will you be available for a quick phone chat on [October 5th] at [2 PM]?


4) On the off chance, it’s a no….

It sucks when you get a message like that, but you can turn things around and ask the referral to pass the details about the opening to their friends. This will help you push the info along and potentially find awesome talent.



That’s a HUGE pity, really.

Is there any chance you could pass along the info about our opening for the position of a [Content Marketing Specialist] to your friends and colleagues?

About The Boring Company. [Link]

Details about the role. [Link]

Sending a mail pigeon with a thank-you note your way! 🙂



So, what do you think? Do you do referral recruiting? How do you use employees’ networks to acquire top-value asset? Let us know @smartrecruiters.

Max Woolf

Max Woolf is a writer. He’s passionate about helping people land their dream jobs through the expert career industry coverage. In his spare time, Max enjoys biking and traveling to European countries. Contact Max on Twitter @maxim_woolf.