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Hire Great Talent – Master the Art of Employee Referrals.

March 23 2012

The one question could save hiring managers hundreds of hours.

Every great team consists of a manager who knows how to identify and hire great talent. I just heard a world famous coach confess that in most sporting contests the big difference in talent is not between the two coaching staffs but in the talent on the field. While I agree with his assessment, a team still needs a leader engaged in the right process in order to find and hire great talent. One way to meet great talent is through employee referrals. Here is a way to make it a more effective process.

Referrals from existing employees are considered by many to be one of the most effective ways to recruit. Employee recommendations are effective because they often have an understanding of the company’s culture and possibly the skill sets needed for the open position. They may also have a good feel for the hiring manager and the personalities that will fit well. Employees who refer often have a vested interest in the candidate’s success and may help in the new employee’s training, onboarding, and may model to them what good looks like. Certainly employee recommendations must be a sure thing, right?
In fact, internal referrals are so successful that many companies offer a monetary bonus for referrals who are hired. This incentive is two-edged. Yes, it increases referrals but… it also increases referrals. During the first few years as a manager, my direct reports gave me more resumes than I could count. The healthy referral bonus encouraged my employees to pass on a resume from anyone who was interested in the job and who was not presently serving time in a penitentiary. 

How could I preserve the integrity of this great program without wasting valuable time on pursuing low-value candidates? My solution was a simple question: Are they better than you?
The first time I posed this question to an employee he looked at me with a crazed look and said, ‘No, of course not.’
“Then I’m not interested.” I explained, “If I’m trying to raise the quality of my team and I’m going to hire someone who is not as talented as you then I’m bringing the average of my team down.” With that, he turned and walked away understanding that there was a standard of talent that I was looking for.

Every resume handed to me was met with this question. I began to get a fraction of the resumes I used to, but the ones I did get were terrific. Now, when employees hand me a resume they have done some of the culling of candidates and know that the quality of the candidate they are handing me is a reflection on them.  In my 12 yrs as a manager, almost every one of my hires came from referrals and all were very successful. This technique also works when you are receiving a referral from a relative, neighbor, or friend.

By consistently asking this question you will receive higher quality recommendations, spend less time interviewing, and more time coaching your team to success. Learn how to consistently hire the best. Read what has been called the One Minute Manager for Hiring.

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