Hiring people is an essential and often costly process requiring time, effort, and resources. While an employee referral program can be an excellent way to find qualified candidates, many companies are still not making the most of this talent source.   

If you’re looking to improve your employee referral program and take advantage of this potential goldmine, we have compiled a list of tips and best practices to help you get started.

What Is the Employee Referral Program? 

An employee referral program is when companies use an organized and structured program to ask current employees to recommend prospects for available positions. 

Through the referral program, employees can share information about potential candidates whom they feel would be a good fit for your company. Employee referrals produce exceptional outcomes, provide a high return on investment, and provide several benefits to all parties engaged in the hiring process. 

Why Employee Referral Programs Work 

The employee referral program is now one of the most effective methods for recruiting that has been developed in recent years. It offers various benefits, such as lower costs, improved quality of hires, and a shorter processing time to hire.   

Moreover, referred employees usually stay longer in the company. A study claims that more than 45 percent of referred employees stay in the company for more than four years. This is more desirable than hiring and training new employees again. 

The same article added that 82 percent of employers believe referrals provide the best return on investment (ROI). They are less expensive than other recruiting methods and are often the most efficient for acquiring external talent.   

9 Creative Tips to Make the Most Out of Employee Referrals   

With an effective employee referral program, you can access a large pool of qualified candidates familiar with your company’s culture and values. Below are nine creative tips to make the most out of employee referrals when recruiting new employees:   

1. Utilize the Gamification Method in Your Employee Referral Program

Gamification is the use of game design elements in non-game contexts. You can use this method to increase engagement in your employee referral program by adding features of competition, scoring, and prizes. This will make the referral process more fun and engaging for your employees. 

Fiverr employed Zao, a new firm that offered an employee referral system, to promote its employee referral program. The software gave the program a competitive edge. It awarded points and credits to participants for any tasks they completed. Employees are also notified when the status of their recommendation’s changes, and receive quarterly and yearly gifts. 

In promoting their employee referral program, Fiverr used Zao, a startup company that offered a referral scheme for employees. The software added a competitive element to the program. It gave participating employees points and credits for any activities they did. The software notifies employees when their recommendations’ status changes, too. Based on their points on Zao, top employees received gifts quarterly and yearly. 

2. Develop Your Employee Referral Program Into a Marketing Campaign 

Another approach that you can take is to treat your employee referral program as an ongoing marketing campaign. You can promote employee participation by investing in marketing communication plans. This will help you develop a brand for your referral program that employees can get behind and feel proud to be part of. 

Groupon, for instance, has a unique marketing strategy for its employee referral program. As part of their marketing campaign, applicants hired through the employee referral program will receive an Adidas track-style jacket after their one-year stay in the company. Its aim is to remind employees of the impact of the program. 

After one year at the company, referred applicants receive a coveted green Adidas track-style jacket. The jacket reminds everyone that the person wearing it is referred by a Groupon employee—and that they’re part of a community. 

3. Remind Employees of the Program Regularly 

If you want employees to participate in your referral program, you need to regularly remind them of its existence. It would help if you reminded personnel about the referral program frequently. You can send out email reminders, display posters or messages in high-traffic areas, or even hold company-wide contests. 

Inmobi, an Indian company, parked a motorcycle in front of their corporate headquarters to keep the referral program at the top of employees’ minds. This way, employees will be reminded that they will receive the motorbike as a referral reward if they endorse a candidate who eventually gets hired. 

4. Create a Program that Resonates to Doing Good 

When coming up with your employee referral program, you can also consider what would resonate most with your employees. Try to evoke emotions that will spur them into action. 

For example, Accenture’s employee referral program is built on the idea that referring individuals makes you feel good, whether it’s because you helped a friend find work or because you helped the firm locate a great new worker. 

Accenture also offers its workers the option of donating a portion of their referral bonus to a charity to optimize this feeling of “doing good.” To top it off, the company matched their donation. 

5. Spread The Program Beyond Your Employees   

According to Business Insider, 41 percent of recommended candidates come from trusted external sources and not the organizations that recruit them. This means that it is also advisable to target non-employees for referrals. This may include business partners, trusted former employees, and vendors. They usually participate, especially when rewards are offered. 

You can also ask your employees’ families and friends if they know anyone who would be a good fit for the open position. You may be surprised at the referrals that will come from the network of your employers, and how they may be the perfect fit for your company. 

6. Update Your Employee Referral Program Regularly 

You must move beyond outmoded referral programs and modernize them to create a culture of referrals. You may also invest in referral tool interfaces that make it easier for employees to see job descriptions and submit referrals with a few clicks or check the status of their referrals and receive regular updates. 

RedHat, for instance, created the ambassador program, which became a massive success with employee referrals accounting for 40 percent to 50 percent of all new employees. They offer three different reward levels and invested in a referral tool that interfaces with Internet Collaborative Information Management Systems (iCIMS). This system lets employees check the status of their referrals and receive regular updates.  

7. Be Transparent with Employees   

It’s crucial to keep communication with the referrer open. This doesn’t mean sharing every background check or performance review detail. But you should let employees know how many people applied for the open position and how their referrals performed in interviews.   

You also need to let them know how to track the referral’s progress on the process as a whole. This will help in managing their expectations on whether their referrals are making good progress with the recruiting process, or not. All of these actions will elicit trust from your employees. Mutual trust also encourages them to join the referral program whenever they can. 

8. Ask for Referrals from Referred Employees 

You would be surprised how many referral programs fail to immediately follow up with the referred employee. When a referred employee accepts the offer and the recruit has begun working, that’s actually the best time to ask for referrals. 

Privilege Underwriters Reciprocal Exchange (PURE) is an insurance firm that recruits 40 percent to 60 percent of its workers through referrals. They achieved such a high number by asking referred employees for referrals as soon as they started working. This leads to increased referrals right once, but it also instills the value of referring in all employees. 

9. Make Sure Your Employees Are Happy   

It’s no secret that happy employees are more engaged and productive at work. These types of employees will also want to encourage friends and acquaintances to apply to your company. 

One of the ways that employers can do this is like what Salesforce does. They sponsor happy hour, where employees can bring with them the possible referrals to have an informal introduction to the workplace. This is also a way to show referrals how employees are treated and may encourage them to apply. 


As an employer, you have a powerful tool to help attract top candidates. When employees love working for you, they’ll want to bring their friends and colleagues in. By positioning your company as a great place to work, you can tap into a highly qualified pool of workers who are currently employed elsewhere. 

If you’re looking to expand your team quickly, consider reaching out to ACS Professional Staffing for a partnership. We specialize in helping employers find the best possible candidates for their open positions, and we’d be more than happy to assist you in finding the perfect fit for your organization. Contact us today.