Note: This post originally appeared on Inc.com, where Hireology co-founder and CEO Adam Robinson is a regular contributor.
To attract talent in today’s competitive hiring market, you have many options available to you. You can post job openings on your career site, job boards and social media, to name a few channels. But many employers don’t fully embrace their top of top job applicants: employee referrals.
According to a study from LinkedIn, the top way people discover new jobs is through referrals. And referred candidates can end up being your most successful hires, as your trusted employees can vouch for their previous work experience.
Is your team doing everything you can to encourage employee referrals? Consider these three unique ways to get employees excited about recommending their connections for your open roles:
1. Host hiring fairs
If you have several open roles or know your team will continue growing throughout the year, consider hosting a hiring fair.
Prepare several weeks or more in advance by reaching out to your employees. Ask them to invite qualified job seekers from their networks. Share drafted social media content, so employees can easily promote the hiring fair across LinkedIn and their other social media channels.
At the hiring fair, potential referrals will have a chance to reconnect with your employees they already know, and your hiring team will have the opportunity to speak with them in a more casual setting than an interview. Once your team gets to know prospective candidates at the hiring fair, encourage them to apply–if they haven’t already–and schedule an interview as soon as possible. Given the record-low unemployment rate, you don’t want to risk top talent getting scooped up by other opportunities.
To boost hiring fair attendance, offer your team incentives. For example, if you currently offer a referral bonus, increase the amount for referrals who attend the career fair and get hired. Or, offer employees who invite the most attendees to the fair a free lunch or other reward.
2. Set up meetings to discuss referrals
Your employees likely have some great contacts in their networks, but these contacts don’t always happen to be top-of-mind. It can take an extra nudge to get the referrals you need to fill your open roles. Set aside a time to sit down with employees and review their networks.
Your HR and recruiting team can host meetings with a handful of employees at a time to review their LinkedIn networks and discuss other ways they might know talent who would be qualified for your team. Chances are, many of your employees have connections both with similar backgrounds to their own and outside their skill sets and areas of expertise. For example, a member of your sales team might refer your next great developer and vice versa.
By the time your recruiting team walks out of each of these meetings, they’ll likely have a list of several qualified contacts they can reach out to about open roles.
3. Think outside the box with incentives
While many companies offer cash rewards or bonuses in exchange for employee referrals, you can excite employees even more with alternatives to a simple cash payout.
Offer employees incentives they might not have otherwise purchased themselves: concert tickets, a gift card to a local restaurant, or a spa day. Or, donate to a local charity the employee is passionate about.
You can also implement referral tiers, which motivate employees to hire several qualified candidates, rather than just one or two. You can offer employees who refer five or more candidates a weekend getaway or a few extra paid vacation days. The more successful referrals you receive, the higher the likelihood you’ll stay fully staffed with top employees, boosting productivity and profitability for your team.
The record-low unemployment rate is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. By tapping into employee referrals, you can get a leg-up on competing employers and hire qualified talent across your open roles.