Making Employee Referral Program Ideas Work

written by Amritanshu Anand

First of all, if you already have an employee referral program but it isn’t working as expected or you want to super boost your referral rates, you have come to the right place. In case you don’t have a referral program and unsure about it, drop everything and read about why you need to have one. While you are at it, here are some employee referral program ideas that worked like a charm. 


camouflaged himalayan snow leopard

Referrals are tough


It’s probably easier to spot a Himalayan snow leopard than a great employee referral program (well, you can obviously use Recruiterflow to manage this). Most recruiting teams think that once you have a reward policy in place, the referrals will start pouring in and their jobs will get easier. Well, no, it doesn’t work that way. You need to understand the motives behind the program and act accordingly. Most research suggests that monetary rewards have a very small impact on referrals. Here’s what you should rather be thinking about.


You need to identify motivations behind referrals. A great workplace environment and employee engagement will lead to more referrals. Most employees refer their friends because of two major reasons.

  1. They want to help out a friend and work with them
  2. They want to help out the company

Understanding that these motivations are there will help you create a better strategy. Think more about recognition and encouragement rather than monetary rewards for your employees. The second most important reason why employees refer a candidate is to help the company and you need to recognize them for it to kick in the positive feedback loop.


Here are a few companies that had the most genius ideas of employee referral programs.


1) InMobi

inmobi employee referral program

The mobile advertising giant was looking for engineering managers to join. While the traditional methods of recruitment couldn’t keep the pace with its breakneck speed of growth, they had to think outside the box. Here’s what they did.

For anyone who referred a candidate for engineering manager and the candidate got hired, they gave the referrers a Royal Enfield bike (a cult in India, kind of like Harley Davidson of India) in India and a Vespa in US offices. The referrers could either choose the bike or take a trip to Bali and watch the sunrise from a Volcano! The bike and Vespa were parked right at the gates of the office so that everyone in the company would remember! InMobi took their referral rate from 20% to 50% for a 900 people team. Numbers to envy for! 


2) Salesforce beer parties

salesforce referral beer parties

Salesforce hosts Recruitment Happy Hours where the team members can invite the friends they want to refer. Just incredible! They took the entire friction out of the entire process and made it fun for everyone. What’s better than having a drink with your buddy at your office! They backed it up with a very prompt processing of referred candidates and during the party, the recruiters got an informal way to build relationships. Even if the candidate isn’t interested immediately, they could always be brought in in the future since the relationship has already been built! 


3) Accenture

accenture charity contribution referral program

Dutch consulting and IT giant Accenture has always been an innovator for its HR practices and they didn’t fail to impress with their employee referral program. As we described earlier, they identified that people refer their friends because they want to help out either the friend or the company and feel good. How do you supercharge that emotional response that comes from doing good and helping someone out? They allowed employees to donate a part of their referral bonus to a charity of their choice and Accenture would match that amount. Now the intrinsic emotional reward for the employee was super charged and it reflected in their numbers.


4) Google

aided recall for referrals at google

Trust Google to do things a tad bit differently. In his must-read book “Work Rules” Laszlo Bock, has a great explanation on how Google encourages its employees to refer other great people. Recruiters sit down with employees and ask them “Who’s the best product person you know in NYC?”. Compared to plain vanilla asking for referrals, such pointed questions go a long way and force employees to think harder. The recruiters sit down with employees and scour their social profiles and ask them to remember the most relevant people. This method is called aided recall.



Getting great developers is getting tougher every passing day! However, developers are a well-connected bunch and need a little nudge to get them to refer their friends. GoDaddy put a poster. Every company does! Well, go daddy put that poster with code that read “If you know of a coder in your network who kicks ass, refer to GoDaddy Recruiting.” when decoded. As a compulsive puzzle solver, I can totally relate to this!


6) recruitment team was having a hard time getting someone who spoke both Portuguese and English for their customer support role in Brazil! The genius recruiting team there got everyone in their team Portuguese for lunch with a little note to refer someone they know for the role! The referrals poured in and they were able to close the position quickly!


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