Do Employee Referrals Guarantee Interviews?

Businesswoman at a desk, looking happy and holding paper in front of job candidate

To better understand the impact of employee referrals on the hiring process, we gathered insights from 15 experienced internal recruiters, hiring managers, and HR professionals. Discover their expert opinions on the value of employee referrals and how they influence the odds of landing an interview or job.

  • High Value of Employee Referrals
  • Stand Out with Employee Referrals
  • Referrals Boost Application Visibility
  • Referral Programs Save Time
  • Referrals Provide Credibility
  • Referrals Considered, Not Guaranteed
  • Referrals Help, Performance Matters
  • Incentives Impact Referral Quality
  • Referrals Prioritized in Hiring
  • Referred CVs Gain Visibility
  • Value Referrals for Long-Term Success
  • Increased Likelihood, No Guarantee
  • Caution with Internal Recommendations
  • Referrals Have a Positive Impact on Interviews
  • Referrals Aid but Don’t Guarantee Jobs

High Value of Employee Referrals

Internal recruiters and hiring managers highly value employee referrals. Referrals not only guarantee interviews, but also increase the chances of getting a job offer. Employee referrals are a testament to the employee’s network, work ethic, and ability to identify like-minded individuals. 

Additionally, they save significant sourcing time and money for recruiters. Organizations often incentivize employees to refer talented candidates by offering cash rewards, bonuses, and other perks. Overall, employee referrals are an essential component of internal recruitment and should not be overlooked.

Jefferson McCall, Co-founder and HR Head, TechBullish

Stand Out with Employee Referrals

Referred candidates have a better chance of standing out and getting noticed by internal recruiters since they’ve already been vetted by current employees. However, while employee referrals can increase the odds of getting a job when taking the entire hiring process into consideration, it’s still up to the candidate to impress a hiring manager during an interview.

As someone heavily involved in the hiring process, I view employee referrals positively. They can bring in strong candidates who are more likely to be a good fit for our company culture.

We, and many other companies, even offer incentives or bonuses to employees who refer successful hires as a reward for helping us find qualified candidates.

Samuel Johns, CPRW and Career Counselor, Resume Genius

Referrals Boost Application Visibility

Although employee referrals don’t guarantee a job, they can increase the odds that a recruiter or a hiring manager will see your application. Internal recruiters are thankful for employees who refer candidates because it reduces half of their work, especially searching for the right fit.

But do employee referrals guarantee interviews? Well, there is no guarantee. However, 88% of employers rate employee referral programs as the best source of applicants. And referred candidates are more likely to join the job than candidates hired from other sources. Recruiters get better hires from employee referral programs with little struggle to find the right candidates from different sources.

Referred candidates tend to know more about the company. So, it is a win-win situation for both employees and employers. Everything results in the fast and effective recruitment of the candidate.

Saikat Ghosh, Associate Director of HR and Business, Technource

Referral Programs Save Time

One of the biggest advantages of employee referral programs is that they help reduce the time to hire because they provide a strong database of potential candidates for an opening without HR departments wasting resources in posting job openings, screening applicants, and interviewing. 

This helps HR teams not only have a strong database of potential candidates but also candidates that employees have previously worked with, know personally, and can recommend.

Max Wesman, Chief Operating Officer, GoodHire

Referrals Provide Credibility

Internal recruiters commonly view employee referrals highly. They value the opinion of a current worker and find that referred individuals often possess traits desired for the job position. 

For example, referred applicants often possess a better commitment to their work, as colleagues are familiar with their prior dedication. This can be an invaluable asset to organizations looking for reliable employees. 

Employee referrals do not guarantee interviews or increase the odds of getting hired; they just provide credible sources of information to hiring managers, which can give prospective candidates priority over others.

Grace He, People and Culture Director, TeamBuilding

Referrals Considered, Not Guaranteed

I wouldn’t say that employee referrals are a “surefire” way of landing a role, but naturally, if a referral is passed on, the team is likely to analyze it just like they would with any external application.

With employee referrals, you don’t want to rely on them as a definitive go-to method for hiring, as ultimately, the person may not fit the requirements of the role. However, they’re not something to dismiss, particularly if you’re hiring for a new role and an employee has experience working with someone who they know is capable of fulfilling the role requirements.

Tracey Beveridge, HR Director, Personnel Checks

Referrals Help, Performance Matters

Employee referrals boost career prospects. Employee referrals make internal recruiters’ jobs easier and more efficient. Since recruiters don’t know if referred candidates meet interview criteria, referrals provide a personal view of candidates.

Referral programs can help with interviews because companies trust employees more than other applicants. Most organizations favor referrals from current employees over broad recruitment channels since it’s faster and easier.

While a good referral program increases your chances, you still need to bring your A-game to land the job. When seeking a referral-based job, it’s important to know your field, have good communication skills, and dress appropriately.

Travis Lindemoen, Managing Director, nexus IT group

Incentives Impact Referral Quality

The quality of internal referrals largely depends on the incentives you put behind them. When our company was ~100 people, we used to get amazing internal referrals.

Why? Because our employees were making referrals based on our great culture and the great mission we had.

As the company grew to 500+ employees, however, we needed to hire faster and faster to keep up with growth. To do so, we implemented referral bonuses. As a hiring manager, I saw the interview candidate quality plummet within months of this new policy, largely because people were referring just to get paid.

The lesson is: referrals are great when they’re referred for the right reasons. However, when you gamify referrals with incentives, your employees will start playing the game accordingly.

Bogdan Zlatkov, Lead Instructor for HR and Hiring, Growth Hack Your Career

Referrals Prioritized in Hiring

When I’m hiring anyone, be it a contractor, a consultant, or a part-time or full-time employee, referrals are always going to be at the top of my list.

There are several reasons for this.

First, whether it’s an employee referral or an outside referral from a personal friend, someone in the industry, etc., they are probably referring someone because they think there’s a match. Most people won’t do a “blind referral,” meaning just referring someone without talking with them first or knowing about their work ethic, their expertise, and the company’s culture or vision. And this is why referrals actually get hired 10X more often than candidates that apply for a job ad.

Referrals also get a leg up in the recruiting process because there are usually very few of them, and in many cases, all referral resumes are reviewed, which isn’t the case for other candidates.

Do referrals automatically get interviews? No! But, in the U.S., referrals are the number one source of hires.

Jonathan Duarte, Founder and CEO, GoHire, Inc

Referred CVs Gain Visibility

I would say no, they don’t increase the odds of getting a job, but they do increase the odds of getting a CV actually seen. 

We receive hundreds of applications for some job roles; it’s not realistic to say we look at all that come through. However, if an employee has referred someone, then that CV always gets looked at and vetted. 

As much as company culture and candidate fit are considered, and there’s more chance that a referral will fit, we still need to focus on the skills and knowledge required for the role. If the candidate doesn’t have the skills, no matter how highly recommended they are, they won’t get through the rest of the interview process.

Heather Scott, Independent Recruiter, Into Marketing

Value Referrals for Long-Term Success

With 20+ years of experience adding talent to companies I’ve partnered with throughout my career, I’ve always requested, welcomed, and appreciated employee referrals. 

An employee referral is an amazing confirmation that your colleagues believe in your company’s culture and are excited about the future. To enable a great candidate experience, it’s important to hold an initial discussion with all referrals for demonstrating interest in your company and as a thank you to your colleague for the referral. 

It provides you with the opportunity to explore the role, share how your company differentiates itself, and learn more about the candidate. As companies continue to attract top talent, we need to remind ourselves that building talent communities is for the long-term success of our business and not just about filling our current open roles in the next 60 days. 

A great candidate relationship can result in additional referrals and eventually a hire, creating a long-lasting impact.

Heidi Hauver, Chief People Officer, TrackTik

Increased Likelihood, No Guarantee

Referrals can increase the likelihood of being invited for an interview, but they do not guarantee a job offer. Candidates will still need to go through our standard recruitment process, which includes a review of their qualifications, skills, and experience. 

Nonetheless, referrals help candidates stand out from the pool of applicants and demonstrate that someone from the company finds them reliable — so there’s a high chance that they’ll fit our company culture.

Karolina Kijowska, Head of People, US Visa Photo

Caution with Internal Recommendations

I’m not a fan of nepotism, whether it’s family or friendship-related, and internal recommendations can come with ulterior motives. These motives won’t usually be known to recruiters or hiring managers. 

So while, yes, these candidates usually do get interviews, it’s more important than with regular candidates to check references, experiences, career mindset, and goals.

Jarir Mallah, HR Specialist, Ling App

Referrals Have a Positive Impact on Interviews

From experience, I find employee referrals are viewed in a positive light for many reasons. The main reason is it saves the recruiter time. But it also offers a form of social proof. Anyone can lie on a resume. Not everyone will refer an employee who is not qualified for a job.

It does not increase the chances of a person getting a job, but it definitely increases the chance of getting an interview.

At the end of the day, the job seeker has to communicate that they can do the job, but also be a likable, cultural fit. If employee referrals were enough to guarantee jobs, it would happen more often.

Kristina Ramos, Reverse Recruiter, Find My Profession

Referrals Aid but Don’t Guarantee Jobs

Employee referrals provide us with a pool of candidates that have already been pre-vetted by someone we trust — an existing employee of our organization. Referrals can help streamline the hiring process by providing a list of potential candidates who already have the necessary skills and experience for the role. 

That being said, employee referrals do not guarantee an interview or a job. While they can increase the odds of getting a job, the hiring process is still competitive and requires candidates to meet certain qualifications and expectations. We still review each candidate’s qualifications, experience, and fit with the company culture before making any hiring decisions. 

Additionally, while referrals can be a great way to identify potential candidates, we don’t solely rely on them for our hiring needs. We still advertise open positions on our company website and external job boards to ensure a diverse pool of applicants.

Kimberley Tyler-Smith, VP of Strategy and Growth, Resume Worded

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