7 Brilliant Employee Referral Programs Examples

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7 Brilliant Employee Referral Programs Examples

Employee referrals – and employee referral programs – are on the rise. And for good reason: referred new hires are often a better (culture) fit, they are more engaged, less likely to leave, and more productive. In this article, we’ll go over 7 employee referral programs examples.

When it comes to creating a brilliant employee referral program, there are a few elements to keep in mind. Ideally, every program includes:

  • Incentives – Cash or non-cash such as extra holidays or even just a simple thank you.
  • Ease of use – Try to make the use of your employee referral program as easy as possible for your people.
  • Feedback – As always, keep your employees posted on the status of their referrals. Did their candidate move forward in the hiring process? Drop them a quick email or message.
  • Recognition – Praise is good for employee morale. Think of a nice way to give your employees the recognition they deserve when they’ve successfully referred someone.

Employee referrals can be considered as a form of selective hiring, an important Human Resource best practice. Bringing in the right people is key when it comes to building a competitive advantage. And who’s better placed to make an initial preselection of potential candidates than your very own employees?

Right, no one.

All the more reason to give your employee referral program some serious thought.

There are plenty of great examples of employee referral programs and referral program software tools out there.

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Below, you’ll find a selection of various programs so you can see what the different possibilities are and use the inspiration for your own program.

7 Brilliant Employee Referral Programs Examples


The referral rate at PURE – an American property insurance company – is high: between 40% and 60% of its employees have been sourced through referrals.

Their secret?

Don’t waste any time. As soon a new hire has made it through his/her first weeks at the company, they get asked if they know anyone else who could be a good fit for the firm.

This kind of cut-to-the-chase referral strategy has two main benefits: 1) it instantly leads to more referrals and 2) it emphasizes the importance of referring.

2. Salesforce’s happy hours

US cloud computing giant Salesforce is known for the rich rewards – both monetary and other – it offers its employees. And not just for successful referrals by the way; Salesforce staff has mindfulness rooms at its disposal, gets paid to volunteer in their community, and when they’ve gone 18 months without a promotion, they get help to find new challenges.

Referral wise, Salesforce employees have been paid a total of no less than $5.5 million worth of referral bounties.

But how does Salesforce go about its referral program?

The company organizes Recruitment Happy Hours, get-togethers where employees can invite the people they want to refer. A great, informal way for recruiters to get acquainted with potential candidates. And fun for both the employees and their referrals since they can enjoy a few drinks together.

3. InMobi’s bikes

When InMobi – a global mobile advertising and discovery platform – was in desperate need for engineering managers, its hiring team knew they had to come up with something extraordinary.

And so they did.

They came up with a country and culture-specific incentive to reward employees. In India that meant a Royal Enfield bike (the Harley Davidson of India) and in the US that meant a Vespa.

To keep employees on top of their referral game, both vehicles were parked right at the entrance of the offices. For every successful referral, InMobi’s employees could choose between a brand-new bike and a trip to Bali.

It turns out a bit of local knowledge to customize your employee referral program goes a long way: InMobi’s referral rate jumped from 20% to 50% for a 900-person company.

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4. Fiverr’s gamification method

Freelancing marketplace Fiverr wanted to increase employee referrals by tracking social job sharing and adding gamification by offering points for sharing jobs and referring friends.

As such, Fiverr decided to use Zao, a company that provided an employee referral program (it has been acquired by PIXID). The software added a competition element to referring candidates since it gave employees points and credit for all actions they took and – let’s not forget about this – it notified them about status changes of their referrals.

Based on the points they’d got on the Zao referral leaderboard, top Fiverr employees received gifts on a quarterly and yearly basis.

Employee Referral Programs Examples at Zao

Zao’s leaderboard gave employees credit
for every referral-related action.

5. Google’s razor-sharp questions

When it comes to employee referral programs examples, this one beautifully demonstrates the power of simplicity. At Google, one of the things recruiters do is ask employees questions like ‘Who’s the best software developer you know in Boston?’

Asking this kind of pointed questions automatically pushes people to think just that bit harder about the people they refer.

6. Accenture’s emotional reward

Dutch consulting and IT firm Accenture uses a different approach. The company’s employee referral program is based on the fact that referring people makes you feel good; either because you helped out a friend by getting him or her a job and/or because you helped the company by finding a brilliant new hire.

To maximize this feeling of ‘doing good’ Accenture gave its employees the possibility to donate a part of their referral bonus to a charity of their choice. To top things off, the firm matched that amount.

7. Intel’s double bonus

Intel has found a straightforward way to hit the two proverbial birds with one stone. In order to stay on top of its diversity hiring, the American tech giant doubles its referral bonus when employees successfully refer women and minorities.

Be Creative

Well, there you have it, 7 brilliant employee referral programs examples.

Of course, there are countless other awesome programs out there, but this selection should give you a fair idea about the endless possibilities you have. The three main takeaways from this article are:

  1. To be creative when it comes to your employee referral program – you don’t necessarily need a big budget to make an impact (although a monetary reward does help of course).
  2. To give your employees (company-wide) recognition.
  3. To keep them posted about the status of their referrals.

As with a lot of things, there’s no magic formula for guaranteed success. Part of it simply is trial and error in order to find out what works well in your organization and for your employees. By testing various referral methods you get to weed out the ones that don’t get you the desired results and hence get closer to an employee referral program that fits the bill.

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