A New Vision for Employee Referrals


Jason Rivas
FirmPlay Co-Founder
Connect with me on LinkedIn

9 min read

Hello recruiters and team builders,

I’m excited to announce the launch of FirmPlay’s Employee Referral Acceleration Platform — a truly new and innovative vision for how companies can approach employee referrals. You might be asking, does the world need another employee referral tool? Both you and I would probably agree that the answer is ‘No’. A quick Google search surfaces dozens of tools that will help support your employee referral program.

I instead want to challenge you to reimagine the mechanics of employee referral programs. A new vision for what employee referrals could be at their best.

What is a Network?

First, we have to think of employee referrals as we would any other network. Networks deliver outsized value — with value defined as the ability to tap into the network to achieve a desired outcome — when 2 components exist. First, the network must be centralized and accessible from one location. Second, there must be an ability to efficiently search the network. Each of these components is certainly valuable on its own, but when combined, they have transformative power.

Take Google, for example. Google is valuable because it has a) indexed every website in the world (the “centralized network”) and b) developed sophisticated tools (the “search”) to help you narrow down the choices to quickly get to your desired outcome — let’s say, how to survive a bear attack (Google says always carry bear spray - duh!). Without both components, a centralized network and search, achieving your desired outcome — figuring out how to survive a bear attack — would be a highly inefficient process.

How do Modern Employee Referral Programs Stack Up?

Along these 2 axes, ‘centralized network’ and ‘search’, modern employee referral programs fail miserably. Seriously, it’s not good!

A Centralized Network

First, there is some good news. Today, employees’ networks are largely centralized online. Now the bad news. They’re spread out across a variety of platforms/communities — LinkedIn, Facebook, Gmail and Twitter just to name a few. Plus, they’re larger than ever before, with the average employee connected to over 600 people. This means that a 50 person company has a combined referral network of 30,000 people spread out across at least 50 different account instances of each online platform, only accessible by the individual employee who owns each network. I’m pretty sure this is the textbook definition of a decentralized network.


Search is an even bleaker picture. At their core, almost all referral programs try to tap into this decentralized network by generating sustained, active participation from employees (submit a referral, share our jobs on social media, etc.). Every time a new job opens up, the employee base must be reactivated and the process starts all over again. Consistent engagement essentially acts a proxy search function, which is why so many referral software vendors promote their ability to keep employees engaged, run campaigns and "gamify'“ the process (see here, here, here and here). I’d hardly qualify this approach as an efficient way to search the network.

The Consequences of Running the Same Old Referral Program

So what does this mean for modern recruitment teams trying to effectively tap into their employees’ combined networks for quality referrals? I think there’s 3 serious consequences that you may have never considered:

  • Speed: In today’s competitive labor market, think about how fast you can currently source quality referral candidates for any new job that opens up. If the answer is days or weeks, then you might be losing quality referral candidates to competition or extending your time-to-fill, which can lead to lost productivity (and revenue) by delaying a new hire’s start date.

  • Quality: Simply asking for referrals is no guarantee that employees are submitting the best quality candidates in their networks. In many cases, recency and other biases are strongly influencing which referrals are top-of-mind for them. It’s also likely that you only have a small subset of the employee base actively submitting the bulk of referrals, which limits the size, quality and diversity of your talent pool.

  • Employee experience: The active engagement required to sustain a robust referral program often creates a poor experience for employees. Outside of their demanding day jobs, they’re repeatedly being asked to do things such as; open & read referral email blasts, stay abreast of new job openings, manually scan their vast personal networks for great referrals, procure and upload resumes, post jobs on social media, and on and on. Does that sound like work that enhances or diminishes the employee experience?

Introducing a New Vision for Employee Referrals

Given the above, we have to ask, what if there was a better approach, and how would that help recruiting teams? Well, I’m glad you asked! We believe the Employee Referral Acceleration Platform is more than software, but rather, a new vision for employee referrals in an age where technology enables us to achieve better outcomes than we could have ever previously imagined. That vision is to build a centralized, searchable talent pool from your employees’ connections that you can tap into on demand to find great referrals, match them to your open jobs and get introduced — all in minutes, not days or weeks. This means:

  1. Targeting referrals more precisely in terms of what your team needs and when

  2. Lessening the burden on employees, while also creating a delightful employee experience

  3. The ability to fill jobs using referrals with the same speed and precision you’d expect from a kick-ass headhunter or an elegantly crafted boolean search on LinkedIn Recruiter

How Does it Work?

The Centralized Network

The technology gives your employees the ability to quickly and easily connect all their disparate networks under one centralized platform. In the background, big data technology scours the open web to enrich their contacts with work experience, skills, social profiles and contact information. A referral talent pool, at your fingertips.

The Search

Intelligent search filters are layered on top of the talent pool to give recruiters the power to search the centralized network against their open jobs. Instantly surface the best referral candidates in every employees’ network, for any job, any time.


The tool also provides a seamless workflow for recruiters to leverage their connected employees for warm intros to prospective referral candidates, closing the loop on deriving value from the network.

Why Limit Access to NYC?

Lastly, while the software is live and ready for primetime, we’re currently limiting access to NYC-area companies for 2 reasons. First, I’m located in NYC and want to give back to a recruiting community that has embraced me so openly. Second, we hope to build a community around innovative recruiters who think differently about employee referrals. Having customers in close geographic proximity will help us nurture and grow that community through things like offline events, meetups and in-person product brainstorming sessions.

If you’re not in NYC, but you can’t wait to get your hands on the software, please reach out at info@firmplay.com and let’s chat.

Happy Recruiting,

Jason Rivas

Jason Rivas