Streamlined Applications Can Be A Referral Magnet

Candidate referrals are a cornerstone of smart recruiting for a good reason. For lots of magnetic reasons, actually.

As Harvard Business Review recently put it, “referred candidates are of higher quality than applicants from the general public and are more likely both to receive and accept an offer, stay at the job longer, and perform better. This all adds up to spending less time on the hiring process, reducing turnover, and increasing overall productivity.”

Employers across the globe received some additional good news about referrals from Talent Board’s latest research: 66% of candidates in North America said they were likely to extremely likely to refer other candidates based on their experiences in 2020; this figure was 75% in EMEA, 76% in APAC, and 80% in Latin America.

What’s astonishing here are the facts that:

  1. More than 90% of the candidates in all of these regions did not get hired for the jobs they applied to
  2. More than 60% of the candidates in all of these regions did not get any farther than applying for a job

In other words, candidates didn’t hold it against employers for not giving them the job. They were still willing to make referrals when their candidate experience was efficient, timely and respectful, which isn’t easy to do at the point of application.

Maximizing Your Referrals Potential

As our 2020 reports make clear, one of the main reasons employers don’t get referrals is because they’ve delivered a poor candidate experience at one or more stages of their recruiting process.

Based on the above percentages, you might be thinking that employers are doing a heck of a good job at providing positive candidate experiences. While it’s true that the overall quality of the candidate experience is on the rise, 2020 was an exceptional year in terms of how forgiving candidates were regarding their experiences, and employers would be wise not to rely on this same level of goodwill for too much longer.

Plus, there’s still plenty of room for employers to improve when it comes to getting referrals, especially when you consider there will be many more candidates entering talent pipelines as the post-pandemic recovery continues. As the number of job openings rise and more candidates apply, employers can maximize potential referrals and sustain those killer percentages noted above by delivering a positive experience every step of the way.

Painless Applications Wanted!

Two great ways to ensure a positive candidate experience right out of the gate are to make it easy to research your company and to make your application process as pain-free as possible.

An easy and efficient application process is particularly important because applying to a job is the last stage of the recruiting process the vast majority of candidates ever reach. Again, more than 60% of the candidates in all of the above regions did not get any farther than applying for a job. If that journey ends on a sour note—a repetitive, lengthy, disjointed application form, for example—it can turn their entire experience sour. And that won’t earn you any potential referrals.

The time it takes candidates to apply is a perfect case in point. Candidates’ willingness to refer others goes down as the time it takes them to complete an application goes up; when we convert this measurement to a Net Promoter Score (NPS) rating, the rating decreases 82% as the application completion time rises from 5 minutes to 60 minutes or more. More generally, the NPS ratings for candidates’ willingness to refer others decline 185% as applications go from being very easy and quick to complete to being slightly difficult, slightly confusing, and time-consuming.

Ramp Up Responsiveness Too

Another important way to maximize your potential referrals is to respond to applications in a timely way—within 1 to 2 weeks, ideally. Simply letting candidates know you’ve received their application is a great start and will put you ahead of many other employers. Shockingly, 61% of all candidates who had applied to jobs still hadn’t heard back from employers a full two months later. Therefore, you can differentiate your employment brand even further by promptly and tactfully letting candidates know when they’re no longer in the running for a job.

Too many companies still hold onto all applications until the job has been filled, as though everyone still has an honest shot at the position. That’s obviously not true in most cases, and candidates rightfully get annoyed when they’re kept in the dark. There’s no good reason not to notify the most unqualified candidates they’re out of the running with a bit of tact and speed. They’ll actually appreciate it.

Bottom line, you have control over what you say, how you say it, and how timely you are about saying it. Exercise that control wisely and referrals will come your way.

Full Disclosure …

Both the HBR article I referenced earlier and past CandE research have made it clear that not all referrals are equal. Employee referrals and referrals from people who have actually worked together or know each other well are typically more likely than referrals from people who are connected only through social media. Also, those candidates who get screened, assessed and interviewed have a higher level of human engagement that just applying for a job, which in turn increases the likelihood of a stronger referral (when the experience is positive).

For the sheer volume of people applying at many companies today, making your application process easier may well invite more unqualified talent into your pipeline. But for most employers the upside of a streamlined application process is well worth it, especially when you consider the importance of incentivizing future-fit candidates to apply again.

By the way, there’s still time to participate in Talent Board’s 2021 research program. Sign up here to learn how your candidates really feel about their experiences with you and whether their experiences are truly setting you apart from other employers.


Be safe and well.

Kevin Grossman, Talent Board President

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