How to Build an Employer Brand that Attracts Referrals

How to Build an Employer Brand that Attracts Referrals


The recruitment landscape is continuously evolving. The rise of social media, online platforms, and digital networking has presented organisations with diverse opportunities for sourcing talent. One such transformative method that is redefining how businesses recruit is "referral recruiting". At the heart of this recruitment strategy lies the cornerstone of any successful business venture – its brand, more specifically, its employer brand.

To understand the concept at its core, let's decipher the term. An "employer brand" is the perception prospective and current employees have about an organisation as a place of work. It reflects the organisation's reputation in the job market. On the other hand, "referral recruiting" is a strategy wherein current employees of an organisation recommend potential candidates from their existing professional and personal networks.

Now, merging these two concepts, we get a synergy where a company's reputation or brand plays a pivotal role in amplifying the effectiveness of referral recruiting. This blog aims to provide a comprehensive guide on how to build an employer brand so compelling that it naturally magnetises quality referrals.

Significance of an Employer Brand in Today's Job Market:

Today's job market is no less than a battlefield. With millennials and Gen-Z entering the workforce, there's a shift in job expectations. Gallup's "State of the American Workplace" report mentioned that only one-third of U.S. employees are engaged at work. No longer is a handsome paycheck the sole magnet. Work culture, work-life balance, professional growth, and company values stand at the forefront. In such a scenario, how does one organisation stand out from another? The answer is – a robust employer brand.

In a survey conducted by LinkedIn, a staggering 75% of job seekers revealed they consider an employer's brand before applying for a job. This statistic alone underscores the significance of an employer's reputation in the contemporary job market. A strong employer brand isn't just a fancy term; it's an invaluable asset. It speaks volumes about what the company stands for, its culture, its treatment of employees, and the potential career trajectory it offers.

Connection between a Strong Employer Brand and Quality Referrals:

Here's a fact: Employees are a company's most significant assets. Not just in terms of operations, but also in building the company's brand. Imagine this scenario – an employee, satisfied and happy with their job, raves about their work, culture, and company to a friend over a casual coffee meeting. This informal, candid chat has the potential to generate more interest in the company than a full-page advertisement in a leading daily.

When employees genuinely love where they work, it shows. Their satisfaction and pride in being associated with the company naturally make them brand ambassadors. They speak highly of the company in their circles, paving the way for organic referrals. And these referrals, backed by personal recommendations, are often of higher quality. They come pre-vetted, saving the HR department time and resources in the initial screening processes

Understanding the Power of Referral Recruiting:

Benefits of Referral Recruiting:

Referral recruiting has proven time and again to be one of the most effective recruitment strategies. Here's why:

  • Higher Quality Hires: When an employee refers someone, it's not merely a casual recommendation. It’s a reflection of their judgement. They're essentially vouching for the person's skills and fit within the company, leading to a higher probability of a successful match.
  • Cost-Effective: Referrals can significantly reduce the cost per hire. The expenses linked with job advertisements, external recruiting agencies, and extensive screening processes are reduced. Plus, the onboarding process for referrals tends to be swifter since they already have a familiar face in the company. A study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) revealed that the average cost-per-hire for companies is $4,129, but referrals can reduce this significantly.
  • Faster Time-to-Fill: The average time-to-fill for most job roles in the US, as per a SHRM report, is about 36 days. However, with referrals, this duration can be reduced substantially because the initial stages of understanding the candidate’s background are accelerated.
  • Increased Retention: A referred employee is more likely to stay with the company longer. Since they had an insider's perspective before joining, there's a better alignment of expectations.

Role of Employees as Brand Ambassadors:

The idea is simple. When employees are satisfied with their job, they become organic promoters of the company's brand. They represent the company outside of work hours, during social events, family gatherings, or casual outings. Their positive experiences, shared informally, create a ripple effect. According to the Jobvite's annual Recruiter Nation Report, employee referrals have the highest applicant-to-hire conversion rate.

  • Genuine Advocacy: Unlike promotional campaigns, the advocacy of satisfied employees feels genuine to listeners, making it more influential.
  • Expanding Network: Every employee, especially in today's interconnected world, has a substantial professional and personal network. Each of these connections is a potential hire.
  • Trust Factor: When someone hears about a job opening from someone they trust, they're more likely to consider the position seriously. Nielsen's Global Trust in Advertising report found that 83% of respondents trust the recommendations of friends and family.

The Foundation of an Attractive Employer Brand:

Definition and Importance:

An employer brand represents a company’s image as perceived by its employees and the job market. It’s more than just the monetary value offered to its employees; it’s about the overall work experience, culture, growth opportunities, and values.

In today's digital age, where company reviews are just a click away on platforms like Glassdoor, having a positive employer brand becomes essential. A single negative review can sway away potential top talent. Moreover, with the rise of remote working and global opportunities, candidates today have a wider range of choices. Glassdoor research indicates that 69% of job seekers would not take a job with a company that had a bad reputation, even if unemployed. Hence, to attract and retain top talent, having a compelling employer brand becomes not just important but necessary.

Beyond Logo and Website Design:

While visual representation, like logos and a well-designed website, play a role in creating the first impression, employer branding goes much deeper. It’s the collective experience of employees, encapsulated into a narrative.

  • Real Stories Over Fictional Narratives: Sharing real-life experiences and testimonials from current employees can give potential hires a sneak peek into the company's culture.
  • Transparency: Being transparent about challenges and how the company is addressing them can earn respect and trust.
  • Continuous Engagement: Regularly engaging with employees, seeking their feedback, and making them feel heard can amplify positive branding.

Alignment with Company Values:

The alignment between what a company claims and what it practises is crucial. A mismatch can lead to a high turnover rate. The real power of an employer brand lies in its authenticity. If a company claims to prioritise work-life balance, but its employees are regularly slogging extra hours, it creates a credibility gap.

  • Consistency is Key: Company values, mission statements, and actual practices should be in harmony.
  • Employee Feedback: Regularly checking in with employees to ensure that the company's practices align with its claims can be beneficial.
  • Authenticity in Marketing: Instead of high-flying claims, use real stories and testimonials in branding material.

Steps to Build an Employer Brand that Attracts Referrals:

Define Your Employee Value Proposition (EVP):

The Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is the unique set of benefits an employee receives in return for the skills, capabilities, and experience they bring to a company. An effective EVP:

  • Attracts the Right Talent: A strong EVP can help draw in candidates who align with your company's culture and values.
  • Reduces Hiring Costs: As your employer brand strengthens with a clear EVP, the cost of attracting top talent drops.
  • Boosts Employee Engagement: When employees resonate with the EVP, they feel more engaged and committed.

Articulating the Company's EVP:

  • Survey Existing Employees: Understanding why your current employees love working for your company can give insights into what your EVP should emphasise.
  • Align with Business Goals: Your EVP should not only focus on what's offered to the employees but also on how it aligns with the company’s long-term goals.
  • Be Genuine: Only promise what you can deliver. Overhyping benefits can lead to disillusionment and high turnover.

Showcase Your Company Culture:

Culture is the lifeblood of any organisation. It’s the intangible energy that dictates how work gets done. Steps to showcase it:

  • Social Media Teasers: Use platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter to share behind-the-scenes glimpses of office events, celebrations, or even day-to-day work life.
  • Host Open Days: Allow potential candidates to experience your workplace first-hand.
  • Engage in Community Events: Participation in local events or causes can showcase your company's values and culture outside of the office environment.

Craft Authentic Employer Brand Messaging:

Your brand message is a beacon. It attracts those who resonate with it and repels those who don’t.

  • Avoid Jargon: Clear, concise, and jargon-free messaging feels genuine and is more relatable.
  • Incorporate Real Stories: Narratives from real employees about their experiences can offer authentic insights into the company’s culture and values.

Utilise Employee Testimonials:

  • Video Testimonials: They offer a dynamic and engaging way to share employee experiences.
  • Written Testimonials: These can be shared on the company's careers page or platforms like Glassdoor.
  • Regularly Update: As the company evolves, so do employee experiences. Regular updates ensure relevance.

Leverage Visual Branding:

Visual elements create immediate impressions. Whether it’s the office ambiance showcased in photos or the colour schemes in branding materials, they should align with the company’s ethos.

  • Consistent Imagery: Use imagery that reflects the company's identity across platforms.
  • Infographics: A visually appealing infographic about the company’s growth, values, or employee benefits can be an effective branding tool.

Integrating Employer Branding and Referral Programs:

  • Referral Bonuses: Offering incentives for successful referrals can motivate employees.
  • Employee Training: Equip your employees with the necessary tools to understand what roles are open and what kind of candidates the company is looking for.
  • Celebrate Successful Referrals: Recognizing and celebrating successful referrals can reinforce the program’s significance.

Nurturing and Sustaining the Employer Brand:

  • Regular Feedback: Keeping the communication channels open with employees can offer insights into areas of improvement.
  • Stay Updated: What worked five years ago might not work today. Staying updated with industry trends and adapting accordingly is crucial.
  • Engage in CSR Activities: Corporate Social Responsibility activities can enhance the employer brand by showcasing the company’s commitment to larger societal issues.

Measuring and Adjusting Your Employer Brand Strategy:

  • Track Referral Rates: A spike in referrals can indicate a strong employer brand. 
  • Employee Surveys: Regularly surveying employees can provide insights into the brand’s strengths and weaknesses.
  • Exit Interviews: Understanding why employees leave can offer valuable insights into areas of improvement.


Today, where information is at everyone's fingertips, employer branding stands as a crucial determinant in a company's success in attracting top talent. A robust employer brand not only helps in drawing in potential candidates but also plays a pivotal role in retaining them.

Building and nurturing an employer brand isn't a one-time task. It's an ongoing process that demands authenticity, consistency, and adaptability. By integrating it with referral programs, companies can unlock unparalleled synergies in their recruitment strategies.

As you embark on or refine your employer branding journey, remember that the heart of a compelling employer brand lies in genuine stories, consistent experiences, and a clear articulation of the unique value you offer to your employees. And when this is done right, the ripple effect it creates can significantly magnify the quality and quantity of referrals.

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