Seven Deadly Referral Mistakes

The Lazy Recruiter’s Sourcing Strategy

A veteran foundryman I once worked with used to say, “Hire the laziest person to do a job, and he will find the easiest way to do it.” Early in their careers, every recruiter looks for an easier way to source candidates (anything but cold calling)—usually in a way that shortcuts their personal development process.

But if you want to know the secret shortcut to sourcing, master the skill of getting and using referrals. The close rate for referrals (securing loyalty and making placements) is three times as high as that of originally-sourced candidates. But you must learn to avoid these mistakes:

  1. Lack of Commitment to Obtaining Referrals – Getting referrals has to become second nature. You must become a student of the game and make it part of your routine conversation with candidates and clients. If you want to vary your pitch for cold calling and get referrals at the same time try this on for size: “Greetings Jane. I’m hunting for vocationally-driven pharmacists, focused on patient care, and enormously committed to advancing in their career. So I am calling everyone in your market in search of the top ten pharmacists who reflect those values. I wonder if you know someone you could recommend?”
  2. Making Referrals All about You – If you see getting referrals as self-serving you will be uncomfortable asking for them. But if you believe in what you do and the value you bring then make it all about that value and extending it to others.
  3. Forgetting to Ask – If you are making client calls, always ask “what is the word on the street, who is hiring? Do you know anybody over there that I could talk to?” When checking references, always end with “I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask about your situation. When did you last consider other options?”
  4. Not Being Referrable—Being referrable is about the process, not a product, and it includes impeccable service, added value (if you don’t continually add value, you are no longer necessary), and fun (people do business with people they like).
  5. Thinking Great Service Alone Is Enough – Great service alone does not lead to automatic referrals. You still have to ask. You can read a testimonial from a client, Diane Jones, on our website. I got the testimonial because I asked for it and got referred to Diane’s boss (to expand our service to their national network) because I asked Diane if she could and would recommend us. She said “Yes” and did so.
  6. Letting Your Fear Get in the Way—People genuinely like helping people who have helped them and are eager to do so. Recently, a candidate who was turned down for a job he wanted nevertheless recommended us to a friend who was interviewed and offered the job he couldn’t land.
  7. Not Using a Systematic Approach – Try this three-step process: (1) Constantly teach people how to give you a referral, including pointing out the referral button at the bottom of your email, (2) Make it a part of your daily routine or company culture, (3) End every conversation by asking for a referral.

And here’s another tip. Why not add this at the bottom of your email signature: “Everyone is talking about our company and the highest compliment you can give me is an introduction to someone you care about.”

I always remind candidates on the phone: , “There is a referral bonus available. It’s worth a phone call. We’ll buy your spring wardrobe.”