Every day we leave online hints of what we do, how we do it, who we do it with, and what we might do next. This is why the technology mapping our social & professional lives is more valuable than ever.

The social graph is a representation of the interconnection of relationships in an online social network. It’s who knows who and how. It’s who has common likes, interests, and locations. It’s dating based on mutual friends. It’s finding new movies and music through the music and movies your friends consume. It’s making sense of your connections and their activities. Never has your employee network been more accessible and valuable for recruiting.


When you have better information, you can better optimize your decision making process. In the case of employee referral programs, there is so much more relational data available, it’s crazy. To modernize your employee referral program, let’s examine how the social graph changes the employee referer’s role, how leadership should commit, and how to leverage data to make sure your next hire is teamable with your existing employees.

Don’t ask the employee to scour their network, ask the employee for an intro to the right person.

You want every employee to help in your recruitment process, but you must understand that 95% of your employees don’t have the skills of a recruiter or head of talent acquisition.

Yes, recruiting is a motherf*ckin’ skill. And some of your employees who aren’t in recruiting are capable of sourcing talent, but most are not fit or not willing to put in the time in order to properly evaluate talent’s fit for the role and company. When you ask an employee to scour their network, you are asking a financial accountant to evaluate the software engineer’s ability to code in Node.js. In many fields, such as software engineering, inbound marketing and design, there is enough information available online to know who you want to meet from an employee’s network.

Optimizing the response rate is the top priority. Your brand is at stake. When reaching out to important people, you should be intro-ed by someone he or she already knows. Use tech that makes it easy to prompt employees to send intros in just a few clicks to the talent you want to meet.

Increased referral hiring starts with the leadership team.

Commitment from your leadership team in your employee referral program is threefold: willingness to ask employees, technology to power program, and compensation bonus.

When Salesforce needed more sales hires, CEO Marc Benioff emailed the entire company asking them to open their network to Salesforce opportunities. The result? 60% more referral hires.

If the task at hand is difficult to do and not part of an employees’ KPIs, good luck getting a time commitment. Recruitment too often sits in the ‘someone else will do it’ category. A technology commitment from the company can lower the amount of time each employee has to spend to positively contribute to the employee referral program.

There is great debate as to whether compensation will improve your employee referral programs. It is worth noting that Careerbuilder reports employees are 48% more likely to refer if there is a compensation bonus, a Berkeley study reports the recurring economic benefits of a referral hire far outweigh the one time cost of a referral bonus and if you haven’t noticed we do live in a capitalist society.

Key employee referral data points from social graph.

I can’t go into everything you can learn from the social graph. But I want to start with very important recruitment questions that the social graph is automating.

  1. How many company connections are in common with prospective talent network? This isn’t terribly difficult to find out; it cross references social graph connections of the talent and company, and it’s super useful. You always want talent’s most relevant existing contact as the first touchpoint.
  2. Who in your company has worked on a project with prospective candidate? This is digging deeper into the question of how is each person connected, i.e. each LinkedIn connection is far from equal. Squads that worked together well in the past, have increased odds of working together well on a new project. In my office, when I bring new candidate to the table, Teamable CEO Laura Bilazarian asks, “Are they teamable?” It’s about working well together.
  3. Are they interested in changing jobs? The answer to this question could come from market data or talent’s social media content. For example, in the 6 months to 12 months after a company goes public, many employees often cash out their stock options and move on. Or if a company is struggling, talented employees look for alternatives. On a talent specific level, you can analyze the sentiment of talent’s social media updates, and measure if they are happy in their current role. Any insight into the willingness to move will save you time in terms of not reaching out to the wrong candidates and helping to close the right candidates faster.
  4. Given their top skills and interests, why is your company a better fit for their career development? This one is about empowering the hiring team to entice and close interested talent. By having more knowledge of their aspirations, your recruiting offer can include something far more valuable than money: purpose. If the candidate loves dogs, you know the candidate loves dogs and your company helps match abandoned dogs to good homes, your recruitment discussion is going to go well.

At the end of the day, employee referrals are moving from a manual and word of mouth process to one that analyzes a company’s entire social graph, and matches this collective wisdom against open positions. Employee referral technology must make it easy for employees to contribute with a minimal time commitment.

Companies that will gain the competitive talent advantage will be the ones that leverage the social graph to build their next team.

About David Smooke

David Smooke is Partner at ArtMap Inc. (Inbound Marketing On Demand), Advisor to  Zoomforth (Rich Media Recruitment Marketing), and Head of Marketing at Teamable (Enterprise Employee Referral Engine).

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