Optimize the Referral Program

Current employees hold the key to the perfect candidate.


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Your Challenge

  • The war for talent is accelerating and as recruiters continue to reach out to passive candidates, a good referral program is necessary to help get the right candidates to your organization.
  • Many organizations currently have a referral program but are dissatisfied with the results. McLean & Company finds that 63% of respondents have plans to optimize their referral programs in the coming year.
  • With limited time and an increase in open positions, many recruiters and talent acquisition specialists do not have the time to optimize their current program or don’t know where to start to fix the pain points.

Our Advice

Critical Insight

  • Not knowing where to start for referral program optimization is common and is preventing companies from tapping into the potential an optimized referral program can offer.
  • Taking the time to set goals and track metrics can help to determine where the pain points are and narrow down the scope of projects to increase the effectiveness of your referral program.

Impact and Result

  • In order to determine pain points, the current referral program needs to be benchmarked against standards and areas for improvement identified.
  • A thorough understanding of the program goals and benchmarks will help determine prioritized projects to increase the success of the referral program.


  • Gary Sarti, Program Manager, Med Express
  • Meg Collins, HR Manager, Aveda Natura
  • Claudine Gunning, Recruitment Advisor, Gildan Inc.
  • Rhonda Cook, Account Manager, Microsoft
  • Ashley McFarlane, Info-Tech Research Group
  • Erica McMullen, HR Director, Operations Staffing, Fulton County School System

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See how all the steps you need to take come together, with tools and advice to help with each task on your list.

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Get to Action

  1. Make the case for referral program optimization

    Decide if the current program needs optimization.

  2. Perform a gap analysis

    Identify the key pain points of the current referral program based on metrics benchmarking and program goals.

  3. Consider optimization projects

    Compile a list of potential projects for the organization.

  4. Optimize the referral program

    Draft a project plan.

Guided Implementation icon Guided Implementation

This guided implementation is a three call advisory process.

  • Call #1: Make the case

    Discuss why you should optimize your referral program, come to a go/no-go decision on optimization, and record initial benchmarks and KPIs. Review the Employee Referral Program Optimization Tool.

  • Call #2: Perform the gap analysis and review results

    Determine your referral program goals, target pain points, and review top projects for optimization.

  • Call #3: Plan optimization projects

    Based on prioritization results, assign project timelines and responsibility, and prepare the communication plan.

Onsite Workshop

Module 1: Make the Case

The Purpose

  • Simply reviewing your current referral program is not enough. To determine if you are successful, perform benchmarking to ensure the program is operating effectively. 

Key Benefits Achieved

  • Making a go/no-go decision
  • Tracking program metrics
  • Benchmarking 

Activities: Outputs:
1.1 Track metrics
1.2 Record initial benchmarks
  • Decision as to whether your current program needs optimization

Module 2: Perform a Gap Analysis

The Purpose

  • Project goals need to be measurable, and should be articulated in a metrics-based way to ensure tracking of the right information. 

Key Benefits Achieved

  • Targeted pain points

Activities: Outputs:
2.1 Benchmark results
2.2 Determine program goals
  • Key pain points of your current referral program identified based on metrics benchmarking and program goals.

Module 3: Consider Optimization Projects

The Purpose

  • Keep referral program simple and as easy for the employee as possible, otherwise it will go unused.
  • Make sure referrals are time stamped to avoid arguments of who referred whom. 

Key Benefits Achieved

  • Optimization projects list

Activities: Outputs:
3.1 Results of gap analysis
  • List of potential projects

Module 4: Optimize Your Referral Program

The Purpose

  • To be successful, referral programs need constant communication, marketing, and tailoring to those employees that you want to refer candidates. 

Key Benefits Achieved

  • Project plan
  • Clear communication
  • Up-to-date referral policy

Activities: Outputs:
4.1 Prioritize list of projects
  • Project plan
4.2 Determine communication methods
  • Communication email
4.3 Update policy
  • Updated employee referral policy

Workshop Icon Book Your Workshop

Onsite Workshops offer an easy way to accelerate your project. If you are unable to do the project yourself, and a Guided Implementation isn’t enough, we offer low-cost onsite delivery of our Project Workshops. We take you through every phase of your project and ensure that you have a road map in place to complete your project successfully.

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Search Code: 74338
Published: March 3, 2014
Last Revised: July 3, 2014

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