5 Keys to Building a Referral Network

Hey Recruiters – are you spending your days just checking in with candidates to see if they are “available” or “interested” in a role you are looking to fill?

Stop it! You are wasting a huge opportunity!

Let’s be generous and say that 20% of the people you call are actually “on the job market” for either a perm or contract role. (Dept. of Labor reports that less than 20% of workforce are “actively looking” on average)

That means you are automatically teeing yourself up for an immediate “NO!” on 80% of your calls.

If you make 60 calls in a day – and connect with, say 20 candidates, that’s 16 wasted calls… 16 great candidates who won’t remember you from Adam! (or any other Recruiter who happens to call that day)

So, now you are left with 4 potential candidates who happen to be available. What are your chances of finding a stellar candidate with those odds?

“But I always ask for referrals” I hear you say.

Really? And how’s that working out for you? Let me guess…

“Do you have any referrals?”

“Referrals? Sure, I don’t know you or your Firm – but, I’d love to give you the names and numbers of a few talented friends of mine who are currently looking for a new role – do you have a pen ready?”

In your dreams.

You have to earn referrals. You have to give something of yourself, your Firm, before you can ever expect to get anything back.

So what’s the alternative? How do Recruiters stop wasting time and get the most out of every connected call with a candidate?

Well, before we tackle the ‘How?’ – let’s tackle the ‘Why?’

In order to become a Master Recruiter in today’s “Referral Economy”, you’ll need to rethink your value proposition in order to drive the change in behavior that I am proposing:

– Transition from “Commission-Hunter” to “Career Consultant”. Position yourself as a Recruiter who is interested in resolving your candidate’s professional needs first – and filling jobs second. This approach will distinguish you as a true problem solver/career consultant – and likely resolve the need to “catch ‘em the day they start looking”. (They’ll call you!)

– Stop Cold Calling Candidates and Start Developing a Loyal Talent Pool. Build a pipeline of candidates who are always happy to hear from you and whom willingly refer other great candidates. This is a far superior strategy than “hoping to reach a candidate on the exact day they are looking for a new gig/role”.

– Cast The Net Wider and Access the Passive Talent Marketplace. Willingly engage and embrace “passive candidates” (not looking/not interested) with the same enthusiasm and investment as you would their “active candidate” counterparts.

(The value of a candidate as a potential source of market intelligence and referrals alone – significantly outweighs their value as singular submission!)

Now, if you want to sentence yourself to a life of “pot-luck” recruiting – and continue to live in the hope that your next call will yield the perfect candidate, please stop reading now and get back on the phone right away! Because you are going to need to make a lot more than 60 calls a day to find a few candidates that are available, qualified, interested and not submitted to half dozen of your competitor’s job orders.

Still with me? Great. Let’s get into the “How?”

Here Are The 5 Rules To Help You Build A Robust Candidate Referral Network:

1. Make friends with your candidates first.
“What? You mean act like a normal, caring, decent human being – when I’m supposed to be submitting candidates? I don’t have time for that…..!”
Well, yes you do. Because the work you put into developing the right candidate relationships today will pay huge dividends tomorrow.

2. Stop discriminating against [passive] candidates who are NOT available/interested in making a move right away.
Everyone’s got their claws into the “available/job board” crowd. Not to be ignored, of course – but the real nuggets of gold are the candidates who may become available tomorrow or thereafter – and decide to call you first!

3. Don’t lead with the job order! Take a moment to understand your candidate’s current situation – and the circumstances under which they would consider a move or a new role.
Once you’ve established your candidate’s professional goals and motivators (their “Buyer’s Gap”), you are in a position to influence, and reconcile any relevant opportunities that you have, with your candidate’s stated needs.

4. Don’t ask for referrals until you’ve earned the right.
Nobody is going to stick their neck out for you and put their reputation on the line (with their network), until they trust you and fully embrace your value proposition. You’ve got to cross the bridge from unknown recruiter (commission hunter) to trusted advisor (friend), in order to comfortably earn access to your candidate’s network and yield the referrals and introductions that you need to win big!

5. Build your network carefully – and then feed and water it regularly!
A network is not a group of individuals who will perform endless favors for you without some “non-transactional” love and TLC! Don’t just reach out to them when YOU need something – take the time to drive real value into your network by communicating regularly and sharing useful information, articles and even introductions – in order to build your brand and achieve “go-to-recruiter” status within your group.

That’s it. Now get out there and make some friends and have fun doing it!

(Need to know more? I’ve got checklists, guides, templates and training to help you become a better recruiter marcus@marcusedwardes.com)


Speak Your Mind


Ask me anything about Recruiting...


Your question has been sent!

I am fascinated by the spectrum of challenges facing Recruiters and Agencies in their quest to grow revenue. What is the biggest problem you are facing right now? I will get back to you inside 24 hours with some real pearls of wisdom...

Name *
Email *
URL (include http://)
Subject *
Question *
* Required Field