Referrals- The Blind Dating of Recruiting

Blind dates.

We've all had them, right? You know, when you're in a slump in between relationships and you just can't seem to meet the "right" person. Suddenly, your mom, sister, or friend knows of someone who "would be perfect for you". You mind begins racing with images of the worst possible people to be paired up with. Are they smart, funny, or friendly? Are they desperate? Are you? You agree and proceed to spend the 6- 8 most miserable hours of your life staring at someone who picks their teeth or has strong views on everything from politics to breakfast cereal.

Then, there are the blind dates that really work out. When you have a matchmaker that really knows both people and realizes there are many commonalities. This matchmaker takes into account that in addition to the commonalities, there are also some interesting differences that may lead to a great relationship. Maybe they know that you have always wanted to spend more time outdoors hiking, rock climbing, and skiiing. They match you with someone who already loves those hobbies. Perfect. The matchmaker also is willing to tell you why they think you're a match. They give details. They give you the dirt.

Well, hiring should be like that. I have read enough articles in my day in Cosmo and Men's Health to know a little bit about what you need to make the best possible relationship match. Here we go:
  • Tell it like it is- Now is your chance to set the expectations and say exactly what you are looking for in a person for the role. Most job descriptions only give you the skills or experience needed in corporate speak. Get real and get results. Use job descriptions that say exactly what you want like Daxko does.
  • TRUST the matchmaker- A referral is only as good as the person making the recommendation. If the employee making the referral is a poor performer, shady, or all-around sneaky employee, I wouldn't put credibility in their assessment. Make sure you're asking those strong contributors who you should be talking to.
  • Decode the situation- Here's where you need to get the dirt. Ask specific questions to ensure the potential candidate not only has the skills, but the ability to thrive in the environment. Dig for as much info as you can.
  • Be ready to bail- Have your exit strategy from the start. Maybe you get through questioning the referrer and realize that this will not be a match to the position you are filling. Have a strategy that makes the referrer feel valued but that clearly says this is not the person for the job. Don't just talk skills, talk culture.
So, what did I miss? What blind date takeaways do you have for handling referred candidates?

Views: 136

Comment by Chris Brablc on May 21, 2010 at 8:55am
Great Post! I particularly like the stress placed on who the referral came from. Top performers have a higher probability of knowing and bringing in other top performers than poor performers are. And these are the people your organization want more of.

The one thing I would add, is some kind of distribution network. You need a quick, easy way to let your employees know about the positions that you want referrals for. This could be an email distribution or micro-site, but just has to be known by the employees that it is there and available. Let them know that you are looking for somebody is almost as important as telling them who you are looking for.

Referrals is a tricky thing to get right, but it can yield great benefits if you do it correctly. I think you've lined out a few great points to get anyone started with them.
Comment by Jenn Francine on May 21, 2010 at 12:47pm
Great post Trish! I enjoyed reading it!!
Comment by Charles Van Heerden on May 21, 2010 at 8:16pm
Hi Trish, great discussion and very pertinent points highlighting the importance of referrals. The underlying issue is the reason why a person is making the referral. Understanding and exploring the motivation for making the referral is fundamental in assessing best way of dealing with the referral.

I would probably receive at least one call a week from recruiters asking me to refer a good candidate for a vacant position. Before I discuss any person in my network, it is vital to get a really good understanding of the role - and I fully concur with your point to tell it as it is.

Lastly, referrals can be a great source of good talent, however it should be integrated into the recruitment process in a transparent and consistent manner. The worst thing that could happen is for a person to be appointed just because they previously worked for the new CEO!
Comment by Trish on May 26, 2010 at 10:26am
@Chris Brabic- Thanks for commenting. I agree that having a distribution channel is key. Even more than that is that communication piece you mention. It's a free way to publicize the organizational needs internally. If more time and attention were placed on this avenue it could save an organization tens of thousands of dollars each year.
@Jenn- Thank you so much for taking time to read and comment. I always appreciate the feedback.
@Charles- Good points about external recruiters asking for referrals. I personally take it very seriously when I put my referral "stamp of approval" on someone. It is definitely key to assess the reason why someone is making the referral and they need to build up credibility over time so that you know their motivation and their ability to really assess and recommend qualified candidates. Thanks so much for your comments.


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