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Always Hiring: Successful Employee Activation in Recruiting

Employee activation - everyone is always hiring

Employers are more likely to offer jobs to candidates with friends in the organization.

And that is not only because these candidates are more likely to be good fits. There are a number of additional reasons why the networks and relationships of an organizations’ employees need to be taken in consideration in recruiting efforts. However, companies still struggle to effectively leverage their employees to hire more effectively.

Employee activation helps companies hire better

Companies know it is important to leverage employees in their hiring efforts. Leveraging employees to generate referrals and hires has been demonstrated to benefit the organization in a number of ways.

For one, in most cases it’s cheaper to hire using referrals, even when a referral bonus is offered for every signed offer. It’s easy to see why when comparing the cost of a referral to that of a recruiting agency, but even when compared with the costs of in-house recruiting, referrals take less time and cost less.

In addition to that, referral hires tend to be of higher quality. Recruiters rank them only second to internal hires in that regard, in fact.

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It makes sense, as they tend to onboard faster because they already have an ally and friend in the company to answer their questions. They are better informed about the company before applying, and are therefore more likely to “outperform other employees on most aspects of company fit.”

Beyond generating referrals, however, employees can be leveraged to help the talent acquisition team forecast the success of their hiring efforts. Candidates with a preexisting relationship with the company are more likely to be a good fit, given basic homophily principles. (See “BIRDS OF A FEATHER: Homophily in Social Networks” by Miller McPherson, Lynn Smith-Lovin, and James M. Cook)

Not only that, but they are more likely to accept an offer, or to reject it more quickly, if they have personal friends in the company. In a study done with interns in a full-time, 2 year MBA program, Adina Sterling discovered that summer interns said they were less likely to hold on to an offer they were going to refuse if they had a friend in the organization. ( See Friendships and Search Behavior in Labor Markets, Adina D. Sterling)

In service industries such as law, financial services, or consulting, campus recruiting results can be extremely unpredictable as students tend to leverage competing offers to consolidate their negotiating power. Any information that can help predict offer success rate is extremely valuable.

Lastly, involving employees in recruiting also ensures they are supporters and ambassadors of the employer brand. These employees talk everyday about their jobs to their partner, their neighbour, their friend at the gym, their accountant. How they talk about the job has a huge influence that employer’s ability to attract candidates.

If you think about it, we’re talking about three separate layers when it relates to the role of employees in recruiting:

  • Employee information: learning more about the networks of your employees in order to hire better
  • Employee mindset: nurturing your employer brand with the employee population to help advocate it to candidates
  • Employee actions: inviting employees to support the company in its hiring efforts, either by referring candidates or simply acting as ambassadors to the brand.

How to start employee activation at your organization

It helps a lot to approach this subject as a marketing campaign, where the target audience is your employee. The goal is not only to generate referrals, but to leverage your employees more broadly to improve your hiring performance in general. That is what we call “Employee activation”, and we think it is an essential input in a successful talent acquisition organization.

Survey your employees to learn about their professional and personal networks to understand what you are working with. Are they in touch with past co-workers? With alums from their schools? Have they met their partners’ colleagues?

There are plenty of solutions that can help you map out your employees’ social networks and improve your ability to forecast recruiting results, for example. You can use them to identify talent populations that are likely to result in a successful hire.


Design a proper marketing campaign around referral programs, with information collateral sent out to employees, events, posters, the works. Think about your campaign in “cycle”, starting when the business activity is low in the summer, for example, and cresting just before the holiday season when people are about to go on holiday and reconnect with their families and friends, and when candidates are thinking of exploring new opportunities.

Communicate about your referral program, its benefits to the employees, both material and emotional, and its benefits to the company in general. Being part of a mission bigger than ourselves is a powerful motivator for us humans, so remind employees that they can play a role in advancing a mission they believe in.

Beyond referral programs, however, talk to your employees about the importance of leaving sincere and informative reviews on company review websites, participating to sourcing marathons, keeping up-to-date on open roles, and always, always be hiring.

This is, of course, additional work for the employees, and should be treated as such by leadership, with proper incentives and allocated time.

A sure way for any employee activation program to fail is to conceive it and deploy it in a silo. The 3 layers of employee activation- information, mindset, and actions- relies heavily on help from the rest of the organization. For example, nurturing the mindset of your employees around the company’s EVP is mainly done through maintaining a consistent company culture, which cannot be done by the talent acquisition team only.

While employee activation involves complex planning and thorough thinking, it does not have to start with intimidating social network maps and high-budget campaigns. Even a simple internal survey and a newsletter can be a good start.

Selecting the Right Recruitment Marketing Technology for your Business

According to Aptitude Research, over 70% of enterprise organizations are investing in recruitment marketing capabilities this year.In order to help with this process, Kelly Cartwright, head of Talent Acquisition Technology Strategy at Amazon Web Services, and Madeline Laurano, founder of Aptitude Research, will be discussing some of the latest trends in recruitment marketing and key recommendations for evaluating providers in our next webinar.

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