As Frederick F. Reichheld explained in his influential book The Loyalty Effect, in the world of recruitment there’s nothing quite like a referral. They’re the gold standard of candidate acquisition – you get willing and enthusiastic candidates delivered breakfast-in-bed-style directly to your door. You don’t have to actively search for top talent, and your competitors are denied the opportunity to steal the candidates.

Professional recruiters and staffers who are veterans of the trade should aim to get half of their new candidates via referrals. If your figures are below that mark it can indicate deeper issues with your candidate communication and engagement strategies. A healthy percentage of referrals hints at a recruiter who treats their candidates well and fosters goodwill within the ranks. Candidates can’t wait to introduce their friends and family to this shining example of recruiting excellence. A low percentage, in contrast, suggests quite the opposite.

So how do you go about maximizing your recruitment referrals? Here are a few tried and true methods to help point those referral numbers north.

Keep Your Name up in Lights

As much as you’d hate to admit it, the fact is that no matter how extraordinary your recruitment prowess may be, your candidates can forget you exist. And if they forget you exist, they’ll forget to refer suitable candidates to your non-existent self.

Engaging with your candidates on a regular basis, and in a meaningful way, will help to keep your name up in lights. This communication may take the form of a catch-up email, a shared piece of content that you feel they might find interesting, or even a direct request for referrals. It’s worth thinking about conducting an NPS (Net Promoter Score) survey to get a gauge on which of your candidates would be happy to refer people to you. This could be as simple as asking ‘how likely are you to refer a job seeker to us on a scale of 1-10?’ and then following up with those that answered with a score greater than 5.

Make Referrals Easy

The manner in which candidates can refer their friends and acquaintances on to you should be made as hassle free as possible. You’re busy. Your candidates are busy. No one’s got time to fill out an 8-page submission that asks for the measurements of a referred candidate’s inner thigh. In fact, research has shown that marking optional fields instead of marking required fields can assist in increasing the percentage of forms completed.

Emails prompting referrals should be kept short and to-the-point, and any submission forms should keep ‘required fields’ to a minimum (provided you get a new candidate’s contact details you can fill in this information later).

Your recruiting or staffing firm should have set points during the development of the recruiter/candidate relationship at which referrals are requested. Remember, the most likely reason that you’re not getting a lot of referrals is simply because you’re not asking for them. Don’t be shy now.

Construct a Referral Rewards Program

Some of your longest serving and most faithful candidates may have a ton of people to refer, but simply don’t have the impetus to do so. It’s up to you to provide it. A referral rewards program is a great option, offering a candidate something tangible in return for their referrals.

While many clients and candidates will be unable to accept monetary rewards or gifts in return for their referrals, you could think about donating an amount of money per referral to their charity of choice. Indeed, it could be that showing deep gratitude for a referral with a handwritten note or a heartfelt email could be enough for it to be deemed worthwhile on their end.

Assure Referrers That They Won’t Regret It

Candidates can be understandably cagey when asked to refer people. It makes sense – to them, another person on a recruiting firm’s books just represents another person to compete against for the next job opening.

It’s vitally important that you put a procedure in place that ensures that any referrals a candidate makes will not be utilized on any opening that lines up with the candidate’s qualifications. The candidate needs to know that they’ll be looked after before any of the candidates that they refer, no matter how spectacular a fit for a position one might be.

Gather Some Endorsements

Word of mouth is about as powerful a marketing tool as there is and the most trusted by far. People are swayed by personal recommendations – it’s a fact that’s true, whether that recommendation has come from a loved one or a shouty, grammatically-challenged stranger on the internet.

With this is mind, it’s worth asking successfully placed candidates for an endorsement or testimonial. These recommendations can serve as further proof to a potential candidate that your recruiting or staffing firm is a smart choice.

Maximizing your recruiting referrals isn’t rocket science. In fact, it isn’t even that challenging a recruiting science. It’s simply a matter of putting in place strategies to endear your recruiting firm to your current candidates, and prompting them to refer others that might benefit from the same level of service.

Corny as it undoubtedly sounds, when recruitment referral strategy is done right, everyone – the recruiter, the referrer, and the new candidate – is a winner.