You did everything right. You trekked across the country to a never-ending list of campus career fairs, talked to hundreds (or thousands) of students, collected resumes, conducted interviews and eventually extended offers to a handful of standout candidates. That’s great! All done, right?


Although attending recruiting events and working with university career centers is a useful way to source entry-level talent, your next great hire is often closer than you think. According to the 2019 Yello Recruiting Study, Gen Z candidates value referrals from a company’s current employees more than any other job source. Lucky for you, the recent graduates you hire — and even the ones you don’t — are sitting on a potential goldmine of referral candidates.

Tapping recent student hires at your organization to connect with new talent can be one of the most effective ways to source candidates. Follow these steps to transform your student hires and runners-up into finely tuned referral machines, multiplying the impact of your campus recruitment efforts:

Build a formal employee referral program

While word-of-mouth can sometimes be helpful in sourcing talent, building a formal employee referral program is a surefire way to capture all possible candidate leads within your company. Give recent grads at your company the resources they need to send you campus employee referrals:

  • Ensure all employees understand the full referral process
  • Develop a central location where all employees can send potential referrals
  • Use employee referral technology to collect submissions
  • Make it easy for employees to track the hiring status of anyone they refer
  • Create a referral bonus program for anyone who successfully recommends a new hire

Offer the right perks

Incentives are a popular way to boost employee engagement, and recent college grads will jump at the chance to earn a referral bonus. Motivate your organization by offering perks that will appeal to Gen Z employees, like cash, paid vacation or a charitable donation. Make sure employees understand the structure of your employee referral bonus program, and have clear visibility when they’ve earned a reward.

Pro tip: Offer employees an incentive for each step of the hiring process. For example, if their referral gets a phone screen, the employee receives a $25 gift card. In-person interview? $50. Accepted an offer? $1,000 bonus!

Promote, promote, promote

Having an employee referral program and offering the right perks is all well and good, but if no one in your company knows about it, your chances of success are slim. Spread the word amongst your teammates about the open positions you’re hoping to fill, and ask for referrals from recent hires. The water cooler is a good place to start, but regular emails to the organization and other all-team updates are even better.

Send weekly communications that include:

  • Current open roles
  • Brief summary of roles and responsibilities
  • A guide to how your recruiting process works
  • A sample social media post to copy and paste
  • A link to your employee referrals platform

Don’t be content with your content

Generation Z consumes content like there’s no tomorrow, so be sure to make your recruitment marketing content witty, useful and engaging. Publish “a day in the life” blogs written by young staffers, ask your interns to do an Instagram Story takeover, or record testimonial videos with recent grads that they can share with their social networks and #humblebrag about how amazing their new job is.

Include key recruitment marketing assets in your employee referral program communications so that they’re easily accessible to team members and can be used to promote open positions.

Enable your employees to attract more talent.

Check out Yello’s employee referral program solutions.

Learn more >

Start a friendly competition

When in doubt, build excitement for your campus employee referral program by stirring up a friendly competition amongst coworkers. Individual or team challenges can be a great way to source more candidates while having some fun in the office. Give your competition a college theme to appeal to young employees. An NCAA-style bracket is always a good bet!

Don’t forget to set a deadline for the end of the competition, and offer a referral bonus for the team or employee with the most successful new hires.

By implementing these bits of advice, you’ll turn your newest employees into your greatest referrers—and tap into more college talent than ever.