4 Ways You Can Turn Your Startup’s Employees Into Recruiters

April 7, 2014

1:13 pm

Why spend all your time and money trying to find startup talent when you can use your own employees as recruiters?

The most desirable candidates aren’t scouring job boards — they’re usually hired through a connection that recommends them. In fact, an infographic at Undercover Recruiter explains that, while only 7 percent of applicants come from referrals, they actually account for 40 percent of hires!

That same infographic also notes that referral-based hiring is faster, cheaper, and easier than most other methods. Check out the whole thing to get all the stats.

Many large companies greatly value referrals from their employees. But in smaller businesses, especially startups, people often don’t know where to start.

Here are four ways you can use the same tactics as the big corporations to turn your startup’s employees into top talent recruiters:

1. Create An Awesome Employee Culture

It’s kind of hard to get employee referrals if they’re complaining about the terrible hours, low pay, slave-driver bosses, and cramped work space.

If you want your employees to refer their connections to you startup, you’re going to have to give them a reason to endorse you. This starts with creating a great work atmosphere for them that not only makes people want to stay, but also bring other people on board.

There are enough tips for creating an awesome employee culture that it warrants its own post. Luckily, we already wrote one for you! Implementing those tips doesn’t just get you more referrals, but it also creates an atmosphere that attracts and retains top talent. It’s a must if you want to be a competitive startup.

2. Be Transparent With Them

Your employees won’t be able to refer anyone if they don’t know there are open positions. Being transparent and letting them in on your recruitment efforts is an awesome way to get top talent referrals.

Instead of putting open positions up on a public job board right away, give your employees the first crack at finding people to refer. Let them know you respect their opinions, and you want them to work with people they know will get the job done and contribute to the company culture.

If that isn’t enough to motivate them, you might want to…

3. Implement A Referral Program

Can’t get referrals because your employees just aren’t motivated to help? Referral programs are the perfect medicine. The way it works: An employee refers to you a qualified candidate. After reviewing/interviewing them to determine the legitimacy of the referral, you then give them a reward of some sort.

The reward can be anything you think would motivate your employees — cash, recognition, an extra day off, or even an all-expense paid weekend getaway would suffice.

Gamification — or the process of engaging your employees to make referrals through the use of games — is one of the most popular and growing methods of getting referrals, with 70 percent of big corporations implementing some sort of gaming system in their offices this year.

4. Send Your Employees To Networking Events

Networking events are a fantastic way for you to see firsthand what type of talent is out there and how you can establish a connection with them. If some of your employees have a small network, or one irrelevant to your startup, then paying for them to attend these events is valuable for both parties.

Think about it. If you were top talent with your choice of where to work, would you consider the startups that have recruiters spouting off robotic endearments and amenities, or would you rather consider the startup that sends actual employees to meet with potential talent and talk about what a great experience it is firsthand?

Of course, this all ties into the company culture you create, so your employees have convincing points to talk about. And paying for them to travel and attend the events is just another great factor of working for your startup that employees can speak about.

Did you find these tips helpful? How do you get employees to refer top talent to your startup?

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Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010). Find Heather on Google+.

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