As the labor market tightens, employers are using all sorts of creative and high-tech ways to recruit. But one of the best techniques continues to be one of the oldest—a word-of-mouth referral system. Scott Wintrip, author of the book High Velocity Hiring, says employers should remember these five truths about referrals:
1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If there’s a “magic bullet” for effective networking and getting quality referrals, it’s this: Just ask for help.
“Just telling someone that you need help—even saying the word itself—creates an important dynamic,” says Wintrip. “It’s human nature for us to help one another … This simple approach often paves the way for people to be generous in pointing you in the right direction.”
2. Realize a little goes a long way. Investing a few minutes each day in referral recon pays off. Small, quick inquiries in your everyday travels can turn into big wins.
When a vendor stops by, ask for her help with referrals. At the local office supply store, network with employees. A phone call to a friend could turn into a referral.
3. Get specific with qualities you’re looking for. Don’t just ask your contacts for referrals to people who are looking for a job, says Wintrip. Ask for referrals to the specific type of person you want to hire.
For example, if you’re looking for a store manager, say, “Who do you know who is good at managing a retail store? I’m looking especially for someone who listens more than they speak.” This precision helps people search their mental Rolodex.
4. Don’t forget to ask your “obvious” networks. How often do you ask current employees for their help with referrals? What about their family members? Or ex-employees who left on good terms? Have you asked your own family and friends? These are the people who are most likely to want to help you.
5. Remember the most important rule for attracting great talent. The best attractor of top talent isn’t high salaries or fancy titles, Wintrip says. It’s being a great place to work. Make sure your business has a positive and engaging environment, and you’ll develop that reputation. Then when you network and request referrals, people will go out of their way to refer friends and colleagues.
“Make referral generation a regular part of your managerial tasks, and before you know it, you’ll realize that good help is easy to find,” says Wintrip.