How LinkedIn Supercharged Its Employee Referral Program

April 14, 2015

When it comes to your Employee Referral Program (ERP), it’s one thing to have a functional program in place, but quite another to have a program that actually yields a high percentage of successful hires.

One of the ways to improve hiring outcomes is to ensure that the quality of referrals — the candidates who are being put forth and vetted — is high, explains Jeanette Ercila, who oversees the ERP for LinkedIn.

To increase the overall fit of ERP leads, the talent acquisition team at LinkedIn implemented several innovative strategies. Here are a few of their ideas:

1. Let employees know exactly what you are looking for

“Last year, we hired over 2000 new employees and this year our plans are pretty ambitious as well,” Ercila shares, “So it’s important for us to educate employees on the type of talent that we seek, to impact higher quality versus quantity in referrals.”

In order to better educate employees, the talent acquisition team created very specific “referral profiles.” These profiles inform employees about specific skill sets LinkedIn is looking for in Engineering, Product, Campus and Sales roles. It’s a simple SlideShare deck, designed to make the process easy and clear for employees.

For example, if you’re an engineer, but you want to refer someone for a sales position, you may not be aware of the minimum qualifications required for the job. After looking at the SlideShare, Ercila says, “you’ll be educated about the types of talent we seek. For example, what education they need to have or which companies they may have worked for previously, and you’ll be able to make a better decision about whether to make a referral.”

2. Brand your ERP program to grab employees’ attention

If you want your ERP to capture the attention of your employees, so that it’s not just corporate background noise, try branding it.

LinkedIn’s talent acquisition team worked closely with the company’s brand and marketing departments to come up with the name for the ERP program. They settled on Talent X.

“We wanted it to be like an X on a treasure hunt map. It’s the X factor in our employees’ network where the talent is discovered,” explains Ercila. “Branding the program helps to create awareness, recognition and stickiness with your employees.”

linkedin recruiting team in india

The LinkedIn recruiting team in India promoting the Talent X campaign

When LinkedIn launched Talent X last year, they did so with a campaign that included ads, swag, and posters, all featuring employees who had successfully referred three or more hires into LinkedIn. The goal of the campaign was to drive employees to the internal ERP site where they could learn about program policies, global openings and read frequently asked questions.

3. Increase awareness with internal-only ERP ads

One very successful way to draw attention to the new LinkedIn ERP program was running internal-only ads, targeting LinkedIn employees. These ads showed up on the intranet and also on as “Work with Us” ads, visible only to people who work at the company (any business can do the same for their employees, using

The ad banners featured LinkedIn “talent magnets” – employees who have made multiple successful referrals.


“We made the ads location-specific, so whether you work in Hong Kong, Mountain View, or New York, you will see the face of someone who works in your office, as opposed to someone you aren’t likely to know,” says Ercila. “These ads are effective because they’re very authentic, and they speak directly to you as an employee.”

The employee photo ads are outperforming other ERP ads and are driving strong traffic to the internal site.


4. Dedicate recruiters to the ERP program, promising a quick turnaround

In order to offer a white-glove service and provide high satisfaction with the program, LinkedIn now has a team of recruiters who are solely dedicated to reviewing employee referrals. “We have a service level agreement committing to employees that we will review their referral and update them with a status within two business days,” explains Ercila.

“Before having dedicated recruiters, there was no formal process for getting back to employees or their referrals,” shares Daniel Scanlan, a ERP dedicated recruiter. “We can now provide a much better ‘quality filter’ at the beginning of the recruiting process and therefore give the requisition recruiters a good pipe of vetted candidates.”

In order to increase transparency and accountability, the team also implemented a dashboard that measures how quickly individual ERP recruiters respond to requests and stick within the service level agreement.

5. Publicly recognize employees

The final successful piece of the ERP is a recognition program called the Talent Magnet Award, where the CEO hands out an award to employees who have achieved strong results with their referrals.

“This January, we recognized an employee who made 20 referrals which led to 13 hires,” shares Ercila. “Jeff Weiner, our CEO, highlighted this in front of all the LinkedIn employees during an all hands meeting, and announced that we'll be giving out that award to all employees who are responsible for three or more hires in a quarter.”

“By doing this, we used our leadership to emphasize quality over quantity,” says Ercila. “We expect to give out about 5-10 awards per quarter.”

All of these efforts have done wonders to increase the quality of referrals, says Ercila. “We’ve not only seen an increase in quantity of referrals, but we’ve seen an increase in hires. At this point we’re averaging about 80 hires a month from our referral program.”

Future initiatives

Moving forward in 2015, LinkedIn’s ERP team has plans to implement a second round of innovative initiatives under the leadership of Leigh Miller, who is now in the role of ERP program manager. Miller is excited to add to the exceptional groundwork that’s already been laid in ERP, and hopes to find ways to bring the successful program to even greater heights.

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