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A happy marriage? Job boards and referral networks

For a number of years, the CareerXroads Source of Hire study has identified referrals, career sites,  and job boards as the #1, #2, and #3 sources of external hires, respectively. Much of the traffic that career sites receive comes directly from job postings on job boards, of course – a relationship that companies have used to keep their talent pipelines full and drive up awareness of their employer brand. Referrals, however, are a bit murkier. Although almost every recruiter and HR professional will readily admit that referrals are excellent sources of hire (lower cost, higher quality, etc.), relatively few have a well-constructed referral system in place.

This is a shame. But it’s also an opportunity.

Job boards should be offering referral networks as part of their service lineup for their employers. Why?

  • Employers already rely on job boards to generate candidates and build awareness. A referral network enhances both activities.
  • One of the barriers to building a good referral program is technology. Again, job boards can help their clients on this.
  • Referral programs only work with a long-term and continued effort – a 3rd party vendor (such as a job board) can provide the necessary push.

Of course, there’s also a key benefit for job boards in offering this service: it generates ongoing revenueand it extends the depth and range of what the job board can do for the employer.

There are, of course, numerous employee referral software vendors out there. Some, such as Zalp and GoooodJob, focus exclusively on referrals; others, such as iCims, include referral systems as part of a larger package. It may make sense for your job board to partner with an existing provider – or (if you have the technical capacity and will) you may wish to build a custom solution that leverages other aspects of your job board. Either way, the most important component of a good referral system is simplicity. It must be simple to understand from both the employer’s and employee’s points of view, and it must be simple to deploy.

I suspect that the marriage of your job board and a referral network will result in happier clients and better hires. What’s not to like?

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Joe Stubblebine

    July 2, 2013, 8:27 am

    Hi Jeff, Thanks for the blog post. It would seem to make sense that job boards should incorporate some kind of referral network within their functionality given the high volume of active jobseekers who frequent their sites. However, I’m pessimistic that this can work.

    When I was running JobCircle.com, we built and integrated an online referral tool called ‘Referral Rewards’ that allowed employers to set a bounty based on a successful referral. When jobseekers searched for jobs, they could see the amount of the reward–should they successfully refer a friend–ranging from $250 – $5000. What we found is that jobseekers are visiting a job site for their own job search, and a jobseeker was no more likely to refer a job that had a referral reward verses one that did not. Generally, people tell their friends about a job regardless of a financial reward for doing so. In a majority of successful referral-based hires you refer to in the survey, the successful hire was generated as a result of an internal referral. Employees only make referrals when there is strong trust and they are confident that the referee will add value to the employer and not reflect negatively on themselves; not for financial reward. Most jobseekers who are traversing job boards are typically there because they are unhappy with their current employer – or don’t currently have one.

    Maybe, in the era of social sharing, the mindset has changed and people are willing to pay it forward by finding jobs for their friends, but I still remain pessimistic.

  • Alice Thomas

    July 3, 2013, 4:46 am

    I think this could be a great idea. We are soon getting Zalp onboard for our organization.
    I think integrating it with job boards would be an excellent idea and would increase the reach all the more.