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Best Practice: The best employee referral program campaigns

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Passing on a personal referral of a friend or acquaintance to your employer is a big step. It will be taken into consideration very seriously: the quality of each referral speaks for itself. This makes it even more important for employers to strengthen this type of recruiting and support their employees in providing referrals.

Internal communication as the key to successful employee referrals

In an employee referral program, the current employees provide the company with the new talents. For your current employees to provide referrals successfully and with enthusiasm, the first step is the efficient promotion of the referral program within the company.

It’s not just about HR and employees being informed. The promotion of an employee referral program should also aim at involving the executives, the IT department, the works council and the accounting department from the very beginning. In this way, you will make sure to have on your side precious supporters and drivers of the project.

How will you promote the introduction of the employee referral program depends on your company culture. Availing of different communication channels entails an advantage. You can read more about this topic in our article on “How To Introduce A Referral Program To Your Team”.

Juice bar employees enjoying at work

The right motivation to make referrals

A successful employer branding is the basis for a successful employee referral program campaign. This is all about employees being passionate about what they do, where they do it and how they do it. The following factors are crucial to the employees’ satisfaction:

  • a secure workplace
  • internal and external training opportunities
  • a positive working environment
  • hierarchies as flat as possible
  • growth perspective and opportunities for career advancement
  • an engaging work environment
  • interesting and diversified working tasks

If employees are satisfied with their workplace, they are most likely to share vacancies within their networks. A further advantage is employees referring prospective employees that are highly skilled and suitable cultural fit to the company. After all, your current employees best know the company and the company’s working environment.

If you want to dive deeper into the topic, we recommend you the Firstbird study on “Motivating Employees for Referrals”.

Boosting employee motivation through rewards

Incentives can also be an important motivation tool for employees in providing referrals. They don’t necessarily have to be monetary incentives. Cash bonuses even seem to have a negative impact on employees’ behavior when it comes to making referrals.

The fear of giving the impression to refer an acquaintance only because of the promised monetary incentive is so great that many employees refrain from taking part into the employee referral program. Much more efficient motivation factors are:

  • the recognition from the HR personnel and managers. The recognition should come in at the right time and alongside with its transparent communication.
  • the possibility to choose some of the work colleagues.
  • a personal bonus, such as a SPA voucher, a few extra vacation days or similar rewards.

This is how you achieve a high employment rate.

Getting many referrals of potential candidates is the first step for a successful employee referral program. However, despite their diligence in selecting candidates, employees can only assess to a limited extent whether the referred candidates are actually suitable for the position. This decision is up to you. Nevertheless, you can influence the hiring rate in advance. Here is how.

  • Job posting: involve your current employees in the creation of the job announcement. They know what challenges arise in everyday work.
  • Job interviews: make your employees participate in an interview. Already during the job interview it becomes clear who gets along with whom and whether a close cooperation will be successful in the future.
  • Trial day: let the selected candidates work in the company for one or more days to find out who really fits into the team. A follow-up consultation with colleagues may offer further information on the selected candidate that was overlooked in the interview. This will also confirms your employees’ feeling of having an impact on their working environment.
  • Addressing the potential candidates directly: you have no control over how your employees inform their acquaintances about the vacancy. Or do you? Instructing briefly your employees on the referral process or on digitally employee referral programs integrated with social media is an excellent method of getting the suitable referral to the vacant role.
Juice bar owner talking to female customer

The examples of successful employee referral program campaigns

You can learn a lot from a successful employee referral program campaign. These three examples show what best works.

#glaubandich Success Story (or #beliveinyourself)

The Erste Bank Group IT had to struggle with two main problems when it comes to recruiting. First, the image of the financial sector is still that of the dusty suit wearers. Second, IT specialists are in great demand on the job market. The HR department therefore relied on the employee referrals as recruiting channel. In cooperation with Firstbird, employee referral program achieved a great success.

ISS Facility Services Success Story

Within a very short time, ISS Facility Services was already able to benefit from the digital employee referral platform. After only eight months, 14 of 24 referrals resulted in hires. Currently, at the first stage, vacancies are only promoted via the internal referral platform in order to save time and money.

Regionalmedien Austria Success Story: Be the first, be Firstbird

Regionalmedien Austria‘s advertising slogan “be the first” fits like a glove. Now it also refers to being the first in personnel recruiting. An increasing number of companies are contending the best skilled workers. An internal employee referral program can, as in this case, lead to success.


A well-designed referral program is both an incentive for the current workforce and an efficient recruiting channel. Therefore, the factors of the good internal communication and the efficient employer branding are of utmost importance. The pre-selection of candidates by your current employees increases the quality of hires and the chance that highly qualified professionals will actually apply for a job in your company. Finally, an employee pointing out an excellent job to their colleagues is the best advertisement for your company.

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