Dos and don’ts of employee referral schemes


Employee referral schemes are a great way to reach out to the network of those you already employ, and can save you a bundle on recruitment agency fees. Better still, you’re likely to get someone who is a good fit with the company and can hit the ground running.

With a personal recommendation from one of your trusted employees, you’re less likely to be confronted by any surprises. It’s also a good way to boost morale if you offer incentives for referrals. Here are some top tips for making the most of any scheme you choose to run.



1.    Offer a large enough incentive to make it worthwhile

You need to make it worthwhile for someone to go to the effort of referring a friend. Gift vouchers and other incentives are ok, but cash is even better. Offer as much as you can realistically afford.

2.    Advertise within your company that the scheme is running

Make sure that everyone knows about the scheme. Put up posters around the office, in the canteen, near the kettle, even in the toilets – anywhere where people might be spending more than 30 seconds. Send a weekly email listing the current top vacancies, not forgetting to mention the referral scheme (and the bonus available).

3.    Offer a charity option

Some people may feel more comfortable with offering a portion of the incentive to charity – that way everybody is a winner. This is especially likely if the incentive is large. Try offering an optional donation to charity for at least part of the incentive offered. It can either be a charity your company already supports, or one of the employee’s choosing.

4.    Prioritise the applications of those referred

Your employees don’t want to annoy their friends and connections, so if you make it your priority to process referred applications and give feedback as soon as possible, you’ll seem like an efficient company and your employee will be more likely to refer again in future.

5.    Publicise successful referrals

Make sure everyone knows about the successful referrals in your company. Mention them in the advertising posters or the weekly emails about the scheme. Be sure to get permission from both the employee who referred them and the hired candidate first though, as they may not want the attention.



1.    Make it too complicated

Make sure the process is as simple as possible, from the form (or other means) by which the referral is made to the rules. Don’t for instance, make it that the employee referral form has to be filled in within one hour of the application reaching your HR department. The easier the system is to use, the more likely you’ll get repeat referrals.

2.    Forget to feedback on referred candidates

If someone’s taken the time to recommend somebody for a post in their company, they’d probably like to be kept aware of the progress of the application. A quick email to let them know if they’ve been called in for an interview, or better yet if they’ve been offered the job is likely to be appreciated. Make sure you get the permission of the candidate first though.

3.    Be afraid to actively approach specific employees

Have you got someone in your company who used to work at a rival or similar company? Approach them for hints on who might also be a good fit at your company. If you have specific vacancies that you think a particular employee might be able to help with, don’t be afraid to ask.

4.    Forget to ask for a character reference

Despite the cash incentive, it’s unlikely that an employee would want to work with someone that’s an absolute nightmare. While you should probably take any reference with a pinch of salt, it doesn’t hurt to ask the employee why they’re recommending them, and what their personality is like.

5.    Be afraid to change the incentive for hard to hire candidates

It’s a fact that for some positions you’ll be inundated with applications, but for those that require some kind of specialist skill or experience, offer a bigger cash incentive – that will get employees really thinking, perhaps offering it out to a wider network than they might have already and in turn that might lead you to your ideal candidate.

No Comments

Leave a comment (*required fields)