If you limit yourself to an in-house referral program, you’re neglecting the majority of talent in your network

Community external referrals

As we’ve written about before, employee referrals are a valuable, powerful tool for building teams. There are several types of employee referrals, and companies with referral programs have higher retention rates and are overall more effective than other sources of hiring.

But many companies just incentivize their employees to make referrals – and stop there. In doing so, they’re ignoring a much bigger network of potential talent from which they could be getting introductions to candidates. Even without an external community referral program, 41% of referrals come from outside of your company already.

A robust, community-sourced referral program should extend to clients, vendors and business partners. This extra level casts a much wider net across a much larger and more diverse pool of candidates.

A community referral program is essential for attracting qualified talent

Let’s look at one example of a new group you could tap into by opening up your referral program – job-seekers. The graphic below illustrates the findings of a study by Talent Function Group, LLC, on how many people are involved in each stage of the hiring process:

increase referral rate 1000

Only 20% of everyone who sees your job posting will begin an application, and just 50% of that number will actually finish it. 75% of those applications will be screened and 33% of those will be seen by a hiring manager. About 20% will be further considered, and just one will be hired.

Right now, that one hire is all you’re adding to your referral network. The other 999 people who engaged in the process are a ‘dead network’ of potentially valuable connections that you’re neglecting.

referral network in house referrals

But what if if you your referral program it to everyone who’d ever seen the job in the first place?

You could encourage external referrals by including a reward alongside the job post for anyone who refers someone who gets hired. Know someone who would be a great fit for this job? Make a successful referral and get rewarded.

You do this, and your opportunities exponentially increase:

referrals external network

You could tap into those original 1000 who saw the job posting, and 1000x increase the chance of a getting a referral for a great candidate.

Making it work

i want you to make a referral

Ready to take the leap? Here are two of the primary keys to making your community referral program a powerful tool:

  • Make it accessible. Keep your call-to-action (CTA) simple, and make your incentive clear: “Know the perfect candidate? We’re offering X for any referral that leads to a new employee”
  • Play the numbers. Get the message out. Broadcasting your referral program maximizes your talent network, without incurring the heavy costs than recruiting agencies would to screen the same amount of people. You can include your referral CTA in job postings, on your career page, or socials. Any time there’s an opportunity to apply for a position and your company, you can have an opportunity to refer someone to your company.

Your next top software engineer is somebody that somebody knows. It might be a friend, a client, or a business partner. An external referral network helps you connect with top talent quickly.

Recruiting is marketing for people, and you want your marketing campaign to hit as many of the right people as possible. When scouting for talent, cast the net wide.