Just about everyone prefers getting a referral to having to advertise and find new recruits, but not many people know how to go about it effectively. Some may feel awkward asking for the referral or be uncertain if its even appropriate. Here are some tips from my experience in recruitment coaching that can help you get the best referrals into your business.

Identify and build relationships with existing clients

These are clients that know you, they love your work and who are happy to speak to you when you call. If you develop these relationships properly they can be your biggest business development tool. If they are happy with your work and like dealing with you, it is more likely when the conversation turns to recruiting that they will mention you and your business. They could be talking to colleagues in other departments at the same firm. They could be networking at an industry event. Or they could just be having a casual conversation with someone in the same office building. The point is that their word carries authority and experience and therefore holds a lot more weight in selling your services than a cold call would.

Create an internal referral program

Look for opportunities to cross sell into different departments. If you’ve made a placement into one department and have other candidates in the same industry, ask if there are other positions available. Make it as part of your internal process to always ask for referrals. If you are doing this consistently, clients will get to know you and not think much of it – it just becomes a natural part of the process. It also make you come across as more professional because you are, after all, looking after your client’s interests.

Checking candidate references

When you are checking candidate references you have an opportunity to start building a relationship with a potentially new client. If that person has just left the business, the chances are fairly high that they will be looking for a replacement. In just getting the reference you can find out more about the position they left and what type of candidate might be needed.

Industry competitors

People often network within their industry, even with competitors. If you have a good relationship with existing clients, you could ask for a referral in a competing firm. If you have been successful in placing candidates in your client’s firm, you could also be successful in their industry competitors.


Candidates that come in for interviews will probably have existing jobs. They may know of other openings in the firm they plan to leave. Of course there is also their position that will become vacant. Make a point of asking them who they report to as part of your interview process. Put that name in your diary so that once the candidate has moved on, you can call their manager and have an opportunity to backfill that position.