Back to blog

Six Creative Ways to Boost Employee Referrals

Posted by
Prarthana Mugeraya
March 14, 2022

There is little argument that employee referral is the smartest, most cost-effective way to hire. While every organization has a referral program (usually a cash incentive to employees who refer), few are runaway successes. By rethinking your referral program and introducing creative interventions at every stage, you can get a lot more mileage out of it. Here are six ideas from us.

1. Ask at crucial psychological moments

Have you noticed how credit card companies check if you’re happy with the card and their service? When you say yes, they ask you if you want to refer someone else who might enjoy using the card. A happy employee is a likely referrer. So, ask for referrals at moments when your employees are most happy. For instance, right after they get a performance reward or a promotion. Here is an example of the kind of email you could send.

Another crucial moment to ask for referrals is right after an NPS survey. If you run quarterly or half-yearly employee sentiment surveys, identify those employees who’ve rated you the highest and ask them for referrals. They are far more likely to do so than others.

With Sense Referral, you can create audience segments and automate and personalize such nudges, and trigger them based on events or actions. With personalized email journeys, we’ve seen a 3-5X increase in response rates, which means more leads coming into your pipeline.

2. Think beyond cash bonuses as rewards

Cash bonuses are great. But should they be the only arrow in your rewards arsenal? Absolutely not! The truth is, most employees refer family and friends because they love working with you. So, consider non-monetary options too. Here are some fun ways to express your thanks to employees who make successful referrals:

  • Extra vacation days
  • Tickets to a show/concert/game
  • A getaway/brunch
  • Spa vouchers
  • Donations to a charity of their choice

These could be over and above your cash incentives. Or leave the choice to the employee: ask how they’d like to be rewarded. You could even consider giving a small reward (like movie tickets) to everyone whose referral is interviewed, irrespective of the final decision. This will work as a powerful incentive for them to keep referring.

3. Gamify your reward system

“In every job that must be done, there’s an element of fun. You find the fun—and SNAP—the job’s a game!” Guess who said this? No, not a gamification expert but Mary Poppins, nanny extraordinaire. And as always, she is right.

Make your employee referral program fun by adding an element of gamification. One way is to set up tiered rewards—make more successful referrals, get bigger, better rewards.

Another way is to set up a leaderboard and run a friendly internal contest. Everyone who participates by referring also enters a raffle for a bumper prize. Turning referrals into a social activity will keep your referral program in the limelight and encourage more employees to participate.

4. Simplify the referral process

Are you asking your employees for referrals but not telling them how to refer? Do they write to someone in HR? Do they do email introductions with the referred candidate? Do they need to fill up a form on the HRMS? When the details aren’t clear or the referral process is complicated, even the most willing employees don’t refer anyone.

We designed Sense Referral to solve exactly this. With Sense Referral, you can send targeted, personalized referral requests via email, text or chat. Employees can see open positions, submit referrals in seconds, and track the status anytime. And your HR team gets a centralized dashboard to manage everything and make timely reward payouts.

5. Roll out the red carpet to referred candidates

Because they come in based on a friend’s recommendation, referred candidates hold a more favorable view of your organization and are 40% more likely to join than others. The hiring time is less and so are the associated costs, because the search is that much shorter and simpler. All very good reasons to make sure that referred candidates have a delightful experience during the hiring process.

One way you can do this is to move referred candidates to the top of the applicant queue so their application is processed faster. You can also set up a personalized communication flow for referred candidates, introducing them to the organization, pointing them to useful resources and keeping them updated on the next steps. By making referred candidates feel special, you increase the odds of them accepting your offer, indirectly letting your referring employee know that you value their effort and signal a positive employer brand image.

6. Look beyond your employee circle

Why restrict your referral program to only your current employees? Take advantage of other great talent networks you already have access to: employee alumni and silver medalists from previous roles. These candidates may no longer be working at your organization but chances are they had a wonderful experience with you. They understand your organizational culture better than most and may be able to refer the right talent.

Tapping into their network is an opportunity you must not miss! By requesting alumni and silver medalists for referrals, you show them that you value the relationship and consider them a part of the system. This augurs well for your employer brand, resulting in higher hiring conversion rates in the long run. And perhaps, keeping the communication alive might even encourage some of them to reapply!


Is your employee referral program as good as it can get? Automation and AI-powered communication can help you level it up. Get in touch with us to understand how. Or read how we helped a US staffing giant get 100+ high-quality referrals in just 2 months.

Read more