Fatima Qizilbash, Talent Marketing Manager, Who Shares Her Company's Referrals Story

December 14, 2018 Alessandra Williams

Fatima's embarked on an exciting new role and explains the impact of implementing a robust referrals structure built on engagement and ease

Taking a Closer Look at What Works

Championing her company’s ideals, Fatima knows firsthand that the same values of engagement and innovation that drive the success worldwide, need to be a part of the hiring and referral process. Listen to her point of view of how they’ve created a program that keeps employees engaged and further enhances an empowering referral culture at the company.



1. What are the most important components of a good referral program?

Well, senior leadership buy-in. We want our associates to know that this program is supported and that our senior leadership is passionate and that they are active users of our Referral Platform. We believe that if they are the key drivers and are engaged, that the rest of the associates base will follow.

2. What are the main challenges you’ve seen companies face when looking to increase their % of hires through referrals?

I think it’s articulating the benefits of an employee referral program. So, there can be multiple challenges. One is ensuring that the platform that is used is simple to use and that associates are easily able to submit referrals, so ease of use. Secondly, is understanding that there is no reprimand, or ramifications, when associates submit their contact who may not be the right fit for a certain position and sometimes that’s a hurdle that we are working to jump over only because we feel sometimes our associates don’t refer their contacts because they feel that if their contact isn’t a perfect fit, that it may look bad on them.

3. How are referred candidates perceived by hiring managers at companies you’ve worked at?

Referred candidates are perceived to have a culture fit. They are perceived to be a stronger, better fit and faster hire candidate.

4. How have you marketed referral programs to create internal visibility?

We currently have a couple of different campaigns running we have used the videos that RolePoint created for us, and we have broken the videos into teaser videos a week prior to our launch, so that we can showcase a few teasers with the key message of, “Stay tuned! Roll with us.” Our hook for RolePoint is “roll with us,” and so whether it’s “come roll with us” or “this is how we roll,” we’re going to use that messaging interchangeably. We are also running a contest that for every individual who submits a referral in the month of May, regardless of whether that referral is hired or not, gets entered into a drawing to win a referral reward. Our referral reward is either 5,000 air miles or $1000, depending on which country you are in. Usually, only associates who submit a referral that is hired, are able to obtain a referral reward, but we are opening this up to all associates as long as they submit a referral, they’re eligible to obtain a reward. The reason we are doing that is that we want people to get comfortable with this new tool.

5. Have you seen a positive impact on retention from referred candidates and on the employees doing the referring?

We have! It was actually one of the key themes in the video that we created with RolePoint because, in our video, the theme was “matchmakers” because associates like to work with people they’re comfortable with, and people that they know, and so what is better than to work with a friend? Also, on the flip side, when a referred candidate, because they’re already 1. a better culture fit and 2. they know that their referral’s name is on the line, we’ve noticed they tend to stay at the company longer.

6. Outside of the direct value of filling requisitions, have you experienced any other benefits of a strong referrals program?

Outside of filling requisitions, it is that we are able to create this feeling of collaboration where we are working together to achieve one goal. Our associates know that not only are they great people, but we want people just like them. It helps us make them feel like they are valued.

7. What level of employee referral cash bonuses have you rewarded in the past?

What we do, because we are a loyalty company and one of our biggest programs is air miles in Canada, we award 5,000 air miles for an associate who refers someone who is hired. If they refer two people in one year that hired, they receive 7,500 air miles, and if it’s three people it’s 10,000 air miles. On the flip side, associates outside of Canada, they’ll receive $1,000 dollars based in the currency of the country that they are in, whether it’s in Europe or in the U.S. The multiplier is in effect for them as well. If they submit two referrals that are hired in a year, they’ll receive $2,500 for the second referral, and for the third, they’ll receive $5,000.

8. What referral probation periods have you seen associated with cash rewards?

We actually no longer use probationary periods. As long as a referral is hired, we will pay out the associate on the next pay cycle. The only catch to that is the referral that is hired has to be hired for a full-time role or a contract that is at least a year or longer.

9. Have you asked for referrals as part of the new onboarding process?

We do. We try to implement the referral dialogue through many of our phases. We’ll do it during the onboarding dialogue and then we’ll do it when we’re speaking with hiring managers, so during a hiring manager debrief when we’re starting to recruit on a role, and then we’ll have referral conversations just as we are meeting with different lines of business to remind them of our referral program and to think about who is in their network that they could connect us to.

10. How have referred candidates compared on a cost-per-hire basis to other candidate sources?

We’ve seen across the board that referred candidates provide a 20% decrease in cost-per-hire. This is just an estimate, but if we are looking at across the board at a screenshot, we are seeing 20%.

11. What’s the #1 employee referral program tip you would like to pass on?

Oh, let me think about that one. The number #1 tip I would say is to make your referral program easy and make it accessible. If associates are easily able to log in to a platform to refer their candidates, you’ll see a larger quantity of quality candidates come through where associates have roadblocks in logging in, and those roadblocks will then hinder whether they participate in the program.

It was a wonderful experience to talk and learn from Fatima. From our conversation, here are my three takeaways.

Takeaway #1: Leadership and key drivers influence the referral culture. The support and passion from the company leaders will then follow suit throughout the rest of the company.

Takeaway #2: A referral culture builds a cohesive brand and identity. Everyone works together and feels a sense of purpose and true value.

Takeaway #3: Take away roadblocks and have an accessible and easy tool. Participation will flourish leading to an increase in the number of quality candidates for hire.

Do you agree with Fatima? How would you describe your company’s referral program? Do you agree with Fatima?

Be sure and let us know your thoughts and experiences and re-share the article!

About the Author

Alessandra Williams

Alessandra Williams, our Marketing Development Lead, spearheads the efforts of organizing company-sponsored events. She loves connecting with passionate and innovative recruitment leaders who believe the people at their companies are genuinely their best asset. For the past several years, she has traveled all over the country to interview prominent thought leaders and provide encouragement to those who want to learn about the best industry practices, such as the benefits of implementing a strong employee referrals and internal mobility program. When she's not working, she is back home in sunny Southern California and loves walking her dog, exploring historical sites and museums, going on hikes, practicing yoga, and eating to her heart's content at the best restaurants (yes, feel free to reach out to her for recommendations and help with SF & LA reservations).

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