Referrals: You have to ask

Sourcing has always been the shining star of every recruitment training I have ever attended. Know how to write a strong boolean string and you will go far!   

Almost 15 years into this career I have learned a very large lesson. While sourcing skills will keep you ahead of the curve – working your network and candidate pool for referrals will win the race faster. Referral recruitment is how you find the strongest talent, engaged pipeline, and an avenue to a warm phone call – which is few and far between in recruitment.  

Sourcing is fun – and it will never go away – but it can sometimes be slow. You are engaging passive candidates – it may take 2,3,10 times of messaging (stalking) them to get even a hello.  Hiring managers have no patience for sourcing no matter how many times you explain the process to them. That was the hardest part of my internal corporate recruitment job – trying to explain why it takes longer to create an active pipeline by sourcing.  Managers just didn’t undertsand.  They wanted instant gratification – candidates in front of them the day after it was posted.   

Here is a stat for you from Linkedin.  

The average time to fill based on normal hiring methods is 55 days.  The average time to fill based on referrals is 29 days. 

33% of hires from a candidate job board stays at least one year. That number increases to 46% if that candidate was a referral. 

In Tech, where specialized skills are in high demand, referrals and custom campaigns are better at attracting the right talent than job boards or other traditional recruitment methods. When sourcing for specific roles, many employees only refer candidates they think are qualified for the role, as their recommendation reflects on their judgment. (Source: Smart Recruiters). 

So, what is the process if you are a recruiter to really gain traction with your network.  

Each time I receive an order from a client I scour my network for who works at competitors, who is senior level in that industry, who is connected in their industry through associations,  I review past candidates I may have worked with, and look through previous employers to see who may be able to help me move the needle forward. 

I trust my network. 

I send a simple email/inmail to that connection. Depending on how long ago I have spoken to that connection, I would engage in a conversation to catch up first.  I find it rude for people to ask for things right up front without even asking how my dog is first (her name is Molly for future reference). Engaging your network is so important – so before you ask for favors – at least show interest in their career, life, family etc.   

The ask.  Let your connection know what you have been task with.  Give them enough details to be able to review their network connections.  Ask for a warm lead and an introduction.  For some recruiters, just a name will do.  Then take that lead and create a message that incorporates the network connection – your response rate will be strong if you can connect the dots for the candidate. 

Secondary to asking your own network for referrals is asking every single candidate you reach out to for referrals.  Sourcing candidates is a gamble.  You may receive a 1% response rate based on what type of role you are recruiting for.  So, don’t forget to ask for referrals!  The candidate you reached out to may not be interested – but give them the invitation to open their network to help you! 

Years ago, I tried this.  I interviewed a senior level compensation candidate for an executive role. She was an outstanding candidate, but the money just wasn’t there for her.  I asked her if she had anyone in her network, she would consider sending to me.  The next day I had a spreadsheet sent to me.  All candidates she had once considered for a role at her organization – with her notes!  I was given a treasure chest for simply asking if she knew anyone that would be a fit.  She helped me close the job – in a much faster and more effective way. 

It is ok to use your network. It is ok to diversify your approach to creating a pipeline.  The value of referrals should never be discounted as part of your TA strategy. 

Your network wants to help you.  Just ask and be sure to return the favor. I have helped place MANY recruiters based on my network.  If you are reading this – say hi!   

So, if you are part of my network – be prepared!    

We will ask.   

But first we will ask about your dog.