How to Leverage Social Networks for Referrals | TechWell

How to Leverage Social Networks for Referrals

As I mentioned in a previous TechWell story, software developers currently have a higher demand for their services than any other position in the US. So, how do you find the best talent in such a tight market? My most successful hires have typically come from internal referrals. The development community can be small and well connected, so your developers can be the best resource for finding and recruiting the highest quality programmers.

The problem is that most companies’ referral programs are cumbersome and time consuming. At, Dave Zielinski profiles several companies that have found innovative and creative ways for internal employees to easily use their large social networks to recruit for the company as well as to make some extra money along the way.

Fifty-three percent of “best-in-class” companies use social media networks for referrals while only 37 percent of "laggards” do so. “Best-in-class” was defined in a study by the Aberdeen group as “those with strong first-year retention of new hires, where hiring manager satisfaction ranks highly over the previous year and where open positions are filled internally at higher rates than at other companies."

The quickest way to incorporate employee social networks is to incentivize people, and the best way to do this is with money. Zielinski shows how Chicago-based Trustwave offers a $5000 referral on priority positions. Each week, four positions are emailed companywide and employees are encouraged to push the job descriptions out to their various networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.). The employees with the most referrals are recognized and given additional rewards.

This might be the quickest path but it is not the easiest for the employees. Trustwave’s program has led to 25 percent of hires coming from internal referrals; this might sound like a high number, but some companies are able to get this number as high as 45 percent.

When the referral process changes, an employee’s day-to-day activities and level of participation drop significantly. To address this issue, several companies offer solutions that automatically match employee connections to job openings. When matches are found, the employee is given the chance to make the referral.

The Israel-based company Zao takes this process one step further. If the person referred for the job is not interested, he can forward the job to one of his contacts. If that person is hired, both the internal employee and the external connection share in the bonus.

Accenture flips the process and lets candidates click a “Get Referred” button, which forwards the request to an Accenture employee who is connected to the candidate through LinkedIn or Facebook. The employee can then choose to refer the candidate.

Why are companies willing to put so much effort into creating referral programs? As mentioned earlier, referral hires succeed at a much higher rate than candidates from regular channels, and they come at a much lower cost than through third-party recruiters.

So, if quality referral programs result in getting better candidates cheaper, when will your company decide to put forth the same level of effort in finding the best possible developers?

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