Employee referral programs can either work for you, or against you – depending on how you approach your job search. Employee referral programs typically change how a candidate can successfully gain the hiring manager’s attention. Using the same old methods will usually land you on the express train to HR.
How Do Employee Referral Bonus Programs Work Against You?
- Remove networking advantages: Employee referral bonus programs remove advantages of the way that most of us were taught to network into a company, because their intent is to funnel resumes into a centralized database – the same Applicant Tracking System that your resume would go if you applied online. Remember, these programs are set up to show equal treatment of candidates.
- Discourage passing resumes to hiring managers: Most companies track bonus eligibility by requiring employees to submit resumes directly to HR – not to the hiring manager. Remember, the program’s purpose is to centralize resumes in an HR Applicant Tracking System … it’s designed to remove the advantage of passing your resume to a friend.
- Some organizations have penalties against breaking the rules: Employee referral bonus programs are designed to build a pipeline of resumes into HR, not to hiring managers. Heavily regulated companies and those who have had past EEOC/DOL issues are concerned about employee adherence to these procedures – breaking the rules could trigger increased government audits and big fines. Many companies who are at greater risk of audits or fines respond by putting penalties in place for employees and managers who circumvent the system. Do you really think an employee will risk their job by breaking the rules to help you? Do you really think that a hiring manager will risk their job or budget to circumvent the system?
- Unfocused Networking less effective: It’s seldom effective to get your resume to just any employee of a company that offers employee referral bonuses, given the high likelihood that it will be sent to HR.
- Interviews dependent on keyword search: Since your networked resume is evaluated in the same way as the hundreds (or thousands) of other resumes from job board & company website, it’s pre-screened by searching for keywords. Remember, these policies are designed to remove the advantage of “going around” HR.
While employee referral bonus programs create a number of unfavorable situations for the candidate, they also create some advantages. What are some methods with greater odds of gaining hiring manager attention? Here are a 6 ideas:
How Can You Make Employee Referral Programs Work For You?
- Fewer networked resumes make it to the hiring manager: Bad news – it’s tougher. Good news – it’s tougher. This additional filtering makes it even more valuable to get your resume to the hiring manager, since more resumes are filtered by HR. If you can get your resume directly to the hiring manager, it carries even more impact and increases your odds of an interview even more.
- Highly focused networking can be effective: Today, it’s not enough just to get your resume to an employee but to improve your odds you need to get it to the right employee – the hiring manager. The two best ways to accomplish this is to get a conversation with the hiring manager, or encourage an extremely close friend or relative to break company rules and send directly to the hiring manager.
- Know when to send and when to hold off: Sending your resume to the first person you talk to is a directly invitation to HR – not where you want to be (unless you want an HR job). Instead of asking where to send your resume, ask who is responsible for a specific department or function and call them. It will likely take many attempts to reach this person and they may not be the hiring manager – it’s not the easy path. However, the easy path is so much less effective, that it make the extra effort to identify and call the hiring manager first very worthwhile. Most candidates will agree that if they have the chance to talk to the hiring manager, they can get an interview – because the odds go way up.
- Ignore paths to HR: Job search can seem like a maze and HR can be a dead end. When trying to get through a maze, you you stop and give up at dead ends -Or do you try a differnt path? Many companies direct their employees to direct all potential candidates to HR – a path that is not in your best interest, because it takes away your advantage and lowers your odds. Don’t be scared that a company will “get mad at you” for ignoring a direction to HR, but find a different path to the hiring manager.
- Change your goal: When reaching out to network contacts, many job seekers state ineffective goals. Your goal should be to have a conversation, not send a resume. If your goal is to find the contact to send your resume, you may be told to send it directly to your contact and they’ll forward (to HR, so they qualify for the bonus). Alternatively, you may get a name and email, with encouragement to mention the contact’s name in your email – It’s a good bet that this person is in HR, and mentioning your contact’s name qualifies them for a bonus. The odds are much better to get hiring manager contact information if your goal is a conversation to share industry info – and much worse if your stated goal is inquire about jobs.
- Your network is even more valuable with employee referral programs: If you leverage your network well, your contacts are even more valuable to you for companies with employee referral programs. Leverage your network for information, not directly for jobs, and you’ll have a greater chance of getting hiring manager contact info, or at least getting closer to the hiring manager (it’s often a multi-step process in larger organizations).
While smaller companies often don’t use these programs, employee referral programs are in place at most large, mid-sized and heavily regulated employers today. These policies change the game of how to be successful in networking into a company. The old rules don’t apply … instead, the old rules simply fast-track you to an HR database. However, by changing strategy of how you approach a company, these policies can be a big advantage for the smart candidate.
How will you change your approach to companies you’ve targeted, to increase your chances of landing an interview?
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