Ease Hiring Challenges With a Strong Employee Referral Program

employee referral program

According to a recent survey by the American Institute of CPAs, in-demand accounting talent is difficult to find. But if you’re a hiring manager in a CPA firm or accounting department, you probably didn’t need a survey to tell you that. To locate and attract skilled accountants, companies need to look for ways to make recruitment easier. One excellent way to expand the recruitment process is by soliciting employee referrals.

Though employee referral programs were once associated with favoritism and nepotism, they are now valued as an excellent method of attracting top talent to your organization. After all, the thinking goes, your accounting team members wouldn’t risk their hard-earned reputation by recommending candidates who aren’t ideal for the position.

To maximize the benefits of referrals, you first need to build a solid employee referral program. Here are four things you’ll need to do to set it up:

1. Communicate your staffing needs.

Encouraging your team to reach out to passive candidates in their networks can give your recruiting efforts a big boost, but only if they understand what kind of professional you’re looking for. Give them the details of what the position will entail, including the job title and job description. That way, they can contact the best candidates for the position.

2. Offer rewards and incentives.

Motivating your team is key to making an employee referral program work, so make sure you set up incentives or rewards for employees who refer a candidate who you eventually hire. Consider the incentives that will yield the most positive results, such as cash bonuses, gift cards or even coveted perks like vacation days. And keep in mind that not all employees are interested in the same rewards. You can garner a wider range of interest by rotating the incentives, thus ensuring that the program stays dynamic and maintaining employee interest as they watch for the latest updates. 

3. Anticipate possible pitfalls.

Stay one step ahead of potential conflicts of interest and legal issues by asking — and answering — these questions before you establish the program:

  • Can family members, spouses and domestic partners be referred?
  • Can hiring managers refer roles that report to them?
  • Is everyone — including board members, officers, executives, recruiters and hiring managers — eligible for referral incentives?

You’ll also want to consult with an experienced attorney about possible legal risks your employee referral program may have, especially in the areas of wage and hour law or hiring discrimination.

4. Clearly define the process to employees.

It’s crucial to make sure all employees completely understand these and other aspects of the program. You wouldn’t want them to get upset after missing out on a cash bonus because they didn’t fully grasp the guidelines. So clearly spell out how employees must present referrals, and explain the evaluation process so there are no hurt feelings if their contacts aren’t hired. Keep them posted as to when they can expect to receive their rewards. Typically, these are given only after referred candidates have completed three to six months of employment.

Once your employee referral program is in full swing, maintain the momentum. Put up posters and remind your staff in meetings, emails and newsletters. Additionally, increase awareness by recognizing team members who have received rewards so employees are aware of the benefits they could be reaping. You have no way of knowing all the professional contacts your employees have made, but if you set up your employee referral program correctly, they’ll know which contacts to send your way.

What has been your biggest challenge or success with an employee referral program? Let us know in the comment section.