A great team won’t just fall into your lap, you have to be proactive and source out the best candidates. At nudj, we believe hiring by referral is, without doubt, the best way to hire. The data speaks for itself, referral candidates are higher quality, stay longer, perform better and are often a better fit for your team. So, this is definitely where you should begin your hiring process.

We surveyed 200 UK based developers and found that:

  1. Over half were responding to less than 10% of unsolicited messages from recruiters
  2. On the other hand, nearly 90% of them would follow up on a job lead from a friend

Referrals might require a little more of your time and effort, but they have a much better chance of connecting you with the most sought after candidates.

The 7 Rules of Referrals

1.  You have to ask!

Your team is busy, so it’s unlikely they will know about your referral scheme unless you tell them about it. So many companies think their referral scheme has failed, but the reality is that’s because they haven’t invested in it. You have to ask your employees for their help and promote your scheme if you want it to thrive.

2.   Ask the right people.

Company-wide emails and status updates on social media are really easy ways to promote your scheme, but they often don’t get a brilliant response rate. Emails go unopened and updates get lost amongst the social media traffic within seconds. While it doesn’t hurt to continue promoting your scheme in this way, it’s useful to think of 4 or 5 people who you think would be great referrers and are likely to get involved. Sending them a personalised message is much more likely to get a response, and it never hurts to ask.

3.  Extending the reach.

Employee referrals are reliant on your team, but if your team is relatively small, it’s a good idea to extend the reach. Asking ex-colleagues, friends, university pals and any advisors or industry people you have met along the way is a great way to get referrals, and you never know who will be willing to help you out. Offer some form of reward whether that’s a beer or a £1k.

4.   Use ‘Aided Recall’

The idea of ‘aided recall’ was pushed by Lazlo Bock, the former Head of People at Google. It’s a simple, but really effective concept, to ask your referrers more direct questions. Rather than asking ‘Who should we hire as our new developer?’ - ask ‘Do you know any great developers based in London?’ Being more specific with your questions will help to jog people’s memories, giving you a better chance of them referring someone great, instead of saying ‘I don’t know.’

5. Give any candidates ‘referential treatment’

The biggest referral killer is poor follow up. If someone has gone out of their way to introduce you to a candidate, you’d better roll out the red carpet for them! Get back to them as quickly as possible and provide prompt feedback. Even if the answer is no, make sure they have a positive experience throughout as this will keep options open in the future.

6. Be persistent

If you don’t get a response, be persistent. People are busy, they might not have deliberately ignored your email. If you don’t get a response you should send a follow up and offer to have a quick phone call to talk it through. It’s important to not take silence as a no, politely following up the request won’t hurt.

7. Treat your referrers well, too!

When anyone gives a referral, make sure you follow up with a thank you. If their candidate gets the job, make sure you pay their reward promptly and give them feedback. Treating a willing referrer well will increase the chances of them referring again in the future.

If you follow these rules, the referrals will come rolling in.

Alternatively, if you want a super easy way to source, ask for and manage your referrals, check us out at nudj. 😉


The worst case scenario is your scheme doesn’t get the results that you want. In this case, you might want to look at some other channels, but don’t give up on your referral scheme too easily! Invest in it, and it will be worth your while.

Resorting to some niche sub groups on meetup, Facebook or even Linkedin is an alternative approach. The obvious choice is to go to job boards, but the quality of candidates is so low. Specialist job sites are slightly better, but generally going down this route is not advisable.

If you are going to use Linkedin, think about who your competitors are. Are any of them struggling or have had negative press? This could be an opportunity to access their pool of talent if some workers have become disgruntled.

Finally a word about agencies. This should be an absolute last resort. Be prepared to pay and be patient. I would recommend working with one recruiter at a time, if you guarantee them your business they will be more likely to dedicate more of their time to you. If you choose to work with 10, don’t expect any of them to go the extra mile.

It is possible to find great candidates to join your team through all of these methods, but nudj stands by referrals being the most lucrative and generally best way to find your newest team members.

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