In polling recruiters over the past few years, I was startled to discover that most indicated that they receive candidate referrals from the people they connect with less than 20% of the time. When asked why, the majority of these recruiters indicated they simply do not ask for referrals as often as they could.
Getting referrals has been an integral part of our business since its inception. It is my belief that the main cause for not getting referrals is that many recruiters have simply gotten out of the consistent practice of asking. In all of the seminars I conducted this year for StaffingU, the overall consensus of each audience is that the problem lies in poor habits and not in people being unwilling to help.
If you have any doubts that asking for and receiving referrals is a natural part of our business, then check out the following five truths about referrals:
1. It is human nature to help others.
Most people take pleasure in helping others. The generous outpouring of support after the earthquake in Haiti or the simple act of opening a door for someone are just a few examples of our common compulsion to offer help.
2. Everyone knows at least 250 people.
In his book, “How to Sell Anything to Anybody,” Joe Girard shows us that each person knows at least 250 people. His proof: 250 or more people is the average attendance at weddings and funerals.
3. Most people take great pride in who they know.
Name-dropping is common in conversations. The key in referrals is to get people to drop names your way.
4. You can get something, at least one thing, out of most conversations.
Referrals, leads on current openings, or information on a company that is downsizing are just a few tidbits you can gain from a dialogue. Everyone you connect with knows something that could be helpful to you.
5. Everyone is an expert at asking for referrals.
Whether it is a referral to a doctor or a tip on a good restaurant, requesting referrals is a normal part of everyday life.
Based upon these truths, the key to getting more referrals is to believe you deserve them and then ask for what you deserve. An easy way to remember this is to “ask early and ask always.” Ask each and every person you connect with a question such as “Who do you recommend I speak with about this opportunity?”
For those of you who are asking, “Isn’t asking everyone I talk with being pushy,” that is a choice that you can make. You can be a pushy recruiter who does not take no for answer. Or you can ask each person you speak with for what you need in a very nice way. Whoever coined the phrase “it doesn’t hurt to ask” rings true when asking for referrals.
My challenge to you is to start asking for referrals from everyone. Just like the muscles in our arms and legs, your referral muscle will get stronger and work more effortlessly the more you use it.