Turning Strangers Into Referrals

We all love employee referrals, right? Cheaper than most job boards, hopefully more reliable in producing good candidates, and a great way to engage employees in building a team and a culture.

Ideally, referrals come from broadcasting to your team your need, and having them say, “Hey, I know someone who would be great for that role!” But too often referrals come from a friend (or at least someone who connected to you on Facebook) asking you to endorse them as a candidate, regardless of your real feelings. If you even have any. Networking! Ain’t it grand?

So how do you respond? Sure, you can take the easy way out and respond “I’d love to help!” while slipping their resume into the trash. You can pass them along and risk your own credibility if they turn out to be duds. But neither of these does anyone any favors. Neither does ignoring their request. Just because you don’t know them well doesn’t mean they aren’t a great candidate, and we all need more of those, right?

There is another option that is more work for you, but can return the most value to your organization. (That’s why we are here, right?) You can treat those referral requests into ad hoc interviews and ask some questions. They’ve approached you to help them, don’t you deserve a little more information?

When you are searching for a job, the worst response is none at all. You put your professional life on paper (which, for some of us, is as tough as doing the same with our personal lives) and send it to the world, hoping for at least validation that we are worthy of attention. When you ask for a referral, it’s even more personal, and no response is even more mentally wearing.

A short Q&A session helps on both sides. Referrer gets a little more information about the referree, strengthens a connection, and potentially finds a good candidate. Referree gets feedback on their potential fit, information about the position needs that a job posting might not have, and recognition of the worth as a person. Yes, it’s a bit of a time investment (and can be a real drain, depending on how well connected you are) but it strikes me as a small price to pay on both sides for a great return.

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