Recruiters Love Referral Programs but Are They the Silver Bullet?

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To better serve recruiters, we provided more insight into the state of tech recruiting by launching the 2020 State of Tech Recruiting. We wanted to share some of our findings with you. We asked tech recruiters and sources to rate the importance of methods to source tech candidates.

In our 2020 tech recruiting survey, referrals are the #1 rated channel for sourcing tech talent. Recruiters love referral programs because they bring the most qualified candidates

What’s Not to Love?

If candidates coming from referral programs are better than other sources, why not double down on referral programs and stop other methods? Instead of giving $2K why not $4K so that employees are more incentivized to refer their friends to the company?

But referral programs have issues. For example, Mary may learn about an opening from a message on LinkedIn from Fred. Mary checks out the company and is interested, but also realizes Anne is working there, so she contacts Anne. If hired, Mary is tagged as an employee referral when in fact, she was initially contacted by Fred. This can be a huge problem as some hiring managers will think that “employee referrals” are the way to go and reduce other recruiting efforts, when this is really not the case.

Another issue that may come up with referral programs is the lack of diversity. When employees continually refer other people they know, the company may lose the opportunity to expand and diversify their team in terms of both skills and demographics.


While you should focus on referral programs, don’t pull focus on external agencies and recruiting tools. Referral programs can be an effective way to recruit employees, but companies may lose out on other opportunities to find unique talent. The referral programs may also be inaccurately given credit when in reality, the work of recruiters and the use of channels is what gets an employee into the company.

Stay tuned. If you are interested in the survey results, we will be releasing additional findings soon.

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