Employers are inundated with quality candidates these days, whether through online job postings, submissions through their corporate websites, or unsolicited contacts from prospective employees. So, what’s the best way to cut through the clutter and grab a company’s attention? Their employee referral program.
According to a recent New York Times article “big companies are increasingly using their own workers to find new hires, saving time and money.” At large firms such as Ernst & Young, employee referrals account for 45% of nonentry-level new hires, while Deloitte sources 49% of their experienced hires in the same way.
A recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that “referred candidates are twice as likely to land an interview as other applicants. For those who make it to the interview stage, the referred candidates had a 40% better chance of being hired than other applicants.”
Lastly, Jobvite’s research shows that:
On average, every employee has 150 social media contacts. For employers with 100 staff, this equates to 150,000 candidate sources. Employee referrals have the highest applicant-to-hire conversion rate, accounting for 40% of all hires. Applicants hired from a referral are brought on board faster than candidates through job boards or career sites – an average of 29 days versus 39 and 55, respectively. Referred hires report greater job satisfaction and remain on the new job longer – 46% more than 1 year, 45% more than 2 years, and 47% more than 3 years. 67% of employers and recruiters state that the recruiting process is shorter with referred candidates; 51% say it’s less expensive. 69% of all US employers compensate for their employees for referrals and 30% plan to invest more in their employee referral programs in the future.
What does all this suggest? That if you overlook the employee referral programs of your target employers, you’re ignoring the fastest route to landing your next role.
To take advantage of employee referral programs, here are six tips to leverage.
1. Target 10-15 specific employers in your preferred industry(ies) and geographic location(s)
Don’t fall into the trap of believing that you’re passing by great opportunities if you focus too much on specific companies. By leveraging a strategic approach to your targets, you dramatically increase your access to current and future job openings while short-cutting your search length.
2. Study the LinkedIn profile of each of your company targets
With LinkedIn’s help, you can quickly identify the folks in your network who are connected to each firm in question by reviewing the list on the right-hand side of each employer’s profile. Your first-level connections to the company are probably your strongest connections. To make the most of your second-level connections, you may need to request an introduction from the contact(s) you share in common.
3. Build multi-layered social media connections at each target company
Network your way in to your target department(s) and reach out to connect with multiple people in relevant parts of the company. Note that this means not just inviting folks to connect, but looking for ways to initiate and sustain an ongoing conversation via social media, email, or phone so they can get to know you and you can eventually request a referral into the appropriate department.
4. Forge proactive relationships with these connections
Take the initiative to start conversations, to find out how you can help them in their work, and to learn more about their workplace and career needs. Suggest helpful resources and forward links, articles, blog posts, news, and white papers that relate to their needs. Keep the conversation going by asking relevant questions and demonstrating a respectful curiosity about their work. Learn how to utilize this “give-to-get” networking approach here.
5. Hone in on the contact most likely to refer you to a hiring executive
While you need to build multiple networking inroads into your target employers, it’s appropriate to request a referral from just one since the company will likely only reward one person for referring you. Notice which internal contact is the most responsive to your overtures and focus your request campaign on that person.
6. Make your referral request
If you do a little research and information gathering in advance, you can identify the referral process and promised rewards of each of your target companies. When you’ve laid the groundwork, you are ready to request a referral by following the referral guidelines published by each firm. A simple request can help you open the door.
For example, “I understand XYZ’s employee referral program can win you X or Y. If you’re open to such a discussion, I’d love to chat with you about whether referring my candidacy to the company might be appropriate.”
Keep in mind that employee referral programs are designed to benefit a company’s workforce, so these staff are helping themselves when they help you. Knowing that someone may be rewarded with cash or desirable merchandise such as a big screen TV or an iPad for referring you to the company makes it easier to ask for their assistance in the first place. Smart employee referral programs transform “something for nothing” networking into the ultimate networking win/win.
By plotting a strategic approach to your target companies and taking savvy advantage of their employee referral programs, you can increase your interview and hire odds dramatically.
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