Ever since the pandemic began the employees have been referring far more candidates than usual, but the quality has declined. We are getting far more junk-quality referrals.

I suspect that these are mostly friends and family referrals, not professional ones.

Employees are using the referral portal as a landfill for social favors. How can this be fixed? I am basically the HR #2 at the company.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Neo
    Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 16:35
  • How could the pandemic change the way the employees referred candidates, whatever their quality? If you - who is "we"? - are getting more junk referrals and you suspect those are mostly friends-and-family, not professional referrals, where are your statistics? Without those statistics, what are you Posting about? What does your "…landfill for social favors" mean? Are you trying to say you have no way of distinguishing between good and bogus applicants, or what? Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 21:40

4 Answers 4


Create a false responsibility.

I assume that they are referring people for certain jobs and not just dumping their CV in "do you know someone who would be a good fit?".

Ask to add a few fields to the posting. Like "Tell us more about this referral. What is your relationship with this person? Is this person looking for a job? Do you know when they can start?"

And most importantly: Tell us why you think this is a good recommendation and in the brackets you could give an example ("we are looking for someone who uses Ruby on Rails and this person must have 5 years of experience").

This will create a feeling that they should tell the truth (because otherwise they are lying to their employer) and because they must back it up with their own names they will be held responsible for the quality of the referral.

Also create a dump: "do you know someone who would be a good fit but we don't have position for them now" without any restrictions. People will choose the path of least resistance and will use it more often.

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    ...and hey - you can run your own scan through the trash pile if you find yourself with extra time and spaces to fill. It's always possible that there's some gold in there somewhere.
    – Ben Barden
    Commented Dec 8, 2020 at 19:39
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    if people are referring inappropriate friends & family then this will likely be some obligation/promise they are fulfilling. Imagine telling your newly unemployed friend "no I I won't show my employer your CV because I don't think they'll want you" - irrespective of whether they'll want them. Imposing an equal but opposite force on referring employees is fine and will work but might place them in a difficult spot. The dump allows employees to be able to say to their inappropriate friends that they've made the referral, without disrupting your hiring
    – benxyzzy
    Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 7:00
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    In agreement with benxyzzy: This is not a false responsibility, this is a prioritization problem where your employees can help you prioritize. Let them help you sort between a naive "I was asked to refer them" and an informed "this person would be excellent here" (and possibly several levels in between). Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 7:21
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    @BenBarden Exactly, for that I usually advise to have some sort of retention policy for CV so you don't dig through 4 months old ones when people might not be interested any longer. Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 8:34
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    Is it a false responsibility? I've previously declined to refer people who I don't think can do the job because I felt this would reflect badly on my judgement. I sort of assumed this would actually be tracked through referral schemes which after all often offer monetary incentives as a reward.
    – Jontia
    Commented Dec 9, 2020 at 10:29

I agree with you that fresh graduates from India is probably not a good/handy way to fill open positions in your company, unless your company is also located in India of course.

However I do think you seem quite rigorous and quick to write certain people off. Unemployed people are not necessary unqualified. A grocery store cashier might actually have a relevant diploma but is working there until he finds something in his/her field. If "poor social skills" just mean a bit shy and/or a little bit less gung-ho than your current workforce they could still be a good employee for a lot of functions.

So although I agree with the other answer that your employees should motivate their referrals, I also think you could perhaps be a bit more open-minded.

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    I find this the more appropriate answer...though i question why the OP is so instantly dismissive of specifically ‘recent indian graduates’...they have the same diploma as recent american graduates likely.... Commented Dec 8, 2020 at 16:31
  • fresh graduates from India is probably not a good/handy way to fill open positions in your company ... can you elaborate on this? why do you think so, and what makes the country that you favor candidates coming in different from indian granduates? Commented Dec 8, 2020 at 16:53
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    I think the sentence "unless your company is also located in India of course." makes it quite clear what I meant to say. I don't say fresh graduates from India are worse than fresh graduates from any other country. However for the majority of the functions I don't think it makes sense to import employees from India. Of course if the fresh graduate from India already lives in your country and has a valid work permit there is no reason not to consider him/her. Hope I cleared this up. Commented Dec 8, 2020 at 17:06
  • It might be worth editing this to simply speak of those lacking current work authorization, a very ordinary requirement as obtaining it is a quite distinct hiring process which may actually include a requirement to demonstrate the failure of a local search. Commented Dec 8, 2020 at 19:18
  • It might make sense to hire people from India if they are cheaper.. many companies do this to reduce customer service quality..
    – guest
    Commented Dec 8, 2020 at 19:59

Consider identifying an absolutely key subset of requirements for each position. Not the "wishlist" common in the advertised requirements, but the really non-negotiable firm requirements.

Then expand your recommendation submission to specifically ask the referrer to indicate for each requirement if it is met, eg:

  • does this candidate currently have authorization to work in [job location country]? Y/N

  • does this person have 2 or more years of experience in [area] ? Y/N

(Make sure you are only asking legal questions - eg, work authorization is an allowed criteria because obtaining it for a worker is a very different and not necessarily even possible path, but many other things are specifically disallowed)

You could then have some form automation where if the answer to any of the above is "no" a text-box question asking for a free-form explanation of why the recommender feels the candidate is still qualified and suitable activates, and must be filled in before the form will submit itself.

Of course you also want to have a general space for custom text where the candidate's unique suitability can be explained - the actual "recommendation" vs "referral" part of the process as this will help distinguish the strong recommendations from the more ambivalent submissions.

No doubt some recommendations will still make dubious assessments, so it's probably worth having a feedback mechanism that serves as a reminder of how the recommendation system is supposed to be used.

The already raised idea of giving a non-specific category for social-obligation recommendations isn't a bad one, but probably needs to be vetted by legal for compliance with applicable regulations.

An entirely other tack is to have the recommendation form simply consist of a candidate name field and two upload widgets: the first for an actual letter of recommendation and the second for the resume. Some guiding text explaining the importance and expectations of the letter wouldn't be bad; regardless those who really understand what recommending someone for a position means and who take time to truly write a recommendation are going to be the inputs with weight distinguishing them from the convenience submissions.


If the quality of the referrals is insufficient but still better than the quality of regular applications, start running the same screening on referral CVs you do for regular applications.

If the quality is just marginally better or on par with regular applications, simply stop accepting referrals. The point of referrals is to gain time in the hiring process, not to lose more time. If referrals make your hiring team lose time, then spending even more time trying to improve the quality of referrals is essentially turd polishing.

Or, on a crazy whim, create a real sense of responsibility by offering monetary rewards for good referrals. Tell your employees you will only accept one referral per year, so that they would feel at a loss wasting it on a bad candidate. If the quality doesn't improve, go back to paragraph 2.

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