Recruiters and sourcers can sometimes be guilty of making life harder than it needs to be. They’ll often fail to use the vast amounts of recruitment data they already have, and referrals are treated more as an afterthought than a primary source of qualified candidates. The result is that recruiters and sourcers end up doing a lot more work than they need to. 

So how can you work more efficiently?

Consider this – it is common to find that less than five out of every hundred people engaged with as prospective candidates are actually placed – and this statistic applies to both agency and in-house teams.

Now, let’s look at those numbers in more detail. In my experience:

  • A typical agency recruiter will place between three and fifty out of every one hundred people who they engage with as prospective candidates.
  • They will have – typically – between seven and twenty open roles at any one time.
  • These roles will cycle (open and place/close) every six to twelve weeks.
  • An agency recruiter will close between 25% and 100% of their vacancies.

So this means that for every successful bit of work, between two and thirty-three people have, for whatever reason, not been placed! Unfortunately, most recruiters don’t do anything with these extra candidates. The result of which is a lost opportunity to build relationships and gain valuable referrals. 

Just look at it this way: As a recruiter your primary responsibility is to fill jobs with the best people as quickly as possible. Referrals are often the ideal source of qualified candidates, and a failure to harness this will thereby limit your ability to do your job well. 

Nearly every single person you come in contact with can prove to be useful. The odds are good that each of them will either be a good candidate down the line OR at least be a good source of referrals. While it might be difficult to manage all of them, the dividends their referrals will bring you are worth it. 

With that in mind, here are seven steps you can take to turn all the contacts and candidates you have into a useful source of referrals and recruitment data:

1 – Decide on your segmentation

The majority of recruiters and sourcers only have a limited number of vacancies that they recruit for, so be sure to define how you will segment your prospect pipelines. I recommend basic segmentation using three attributes – job, location, and sector.


2 – Invest in a tool to set-up and manage your pipelines

This can be inexpensive – and sometimes free (like Hello Talent). Make sure that whatever tool you choose has a method of parsing details from social network profiles to minimise manual entry. Also verify that this platform supports the type of segmentation that you have decided on in step one.


3 – Invest in an email marketing platform

Again this can also be inexpensive. There are a number of free or close to free options such as MailChimp. Alternatively, using Gmail with a platform like Streak can be very effective.


4 – Capture the details of every relevant prospect

Ask yourself this question.

“Would you ever want to speak to that person about vacancies you are working on?”

If the answer is yes – for whatever reason – load ‘em! Get an email address and make sure the data is correct. Note, accurate data is KEY. The rule about data is: Crap In = Crap Out.


5 – Decide on your positioning

You are going to be contacting the prospects within the pipelines that you have set-up on a regular basis by email. So you must agree on how you will be positioning and presenting yourself to people who you probably don’t yet have a deep relationship with. Think about how you can make your cold contacts be positively perceived. Your goal should be to build trust with them in a way that avoids a typical sales pitch.


6 – Craft your messaging

Avoid financial incentives for referrals. Check out why Google now avoids it. Align the messaging that you are sending with your positioning. Use A/B testing to identify what sticks. Create (or buy) relevant content to include. Personalise and always remember the importance of the subject line. Finally, make sure that you have a compelling call-to-action that will encourage prospects to engage with you or forward to their peer group.


7 – Measure the results and follow-up!

Always check your open rates, click-throughs and forwards, and follow-up on every reply you get – even if it appears to be a useless lead.

If you follow this process and repeat it on a regular basis, I guarantee that you will begin to see a steady flow of referral traffic coming to you.


This is a special guest post from Billy McDiarmid. With over a decade of recruiting and sourcing experience, Billy is one of Europe’s most well regarded recruitment professionals. He regularly speaks at events to share his insights and can be found on Twitter and on his blog.