The most powerful recruitment tool a business has is the combined network of its employees. This resource is close at hand. Tapping into it can lead your startup to the best future hires.

Good talent knows good talent. Strong performers attract other strong performers and because people generally tend to associate with others in their profession, this gives them access to specialized or rare talent. Leveraging this network is your best source of future employees.

First hires are critical to the success of your employee network

Your first hires are critical to the success of this type of hiring system. Look for candidates who are not only excited about the work and where your startup is headed, but who are also well connected and respected in their industry. In short, make sure they are people that will help you attract and retain more great employees as you grow. These people will form your recruitment “sales force.”

Appoint a team member to mine employee networks. This person should actively review employee networks and engage the employee(s) in identifying strong potential candidates for your startup.

Build a pipeline of potential candidates for future recruitment needs

The following steps can help you create a pipeline of potential candidates that you can reach quickly and warmly when the need arises:

  • Chat with your employees individually and openly discuss members of their networks that might be a good fit in the company
  • Check your employees’ LinkedIn profiles for professional contacts (and remember that Facebook typically represents a network of very close connections—often with former coworkers)
  • Create an active campaign to promote the company to individuals you’ve targeted to be good potential additions to the team. Engage your employees in this activity
  • Pay special attention to your top talent: chances are good that they are connected to more top talent
  • Give generous referral bonuses
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat

Leveraging your employee network: Tips to help the process succeed

Tip 1: Get a straightforward assessment

Ask the referring employee to consider these two questions:

  1. Would you be proud to have this person as a co-worker?
  2. Would you be excited to have them work here?

Tip 2: Conduct quality control

Have a member of your executive team check the candidates. If you have a recruiter doing the hands-on work, do spot checks to ensure the system is working.

Tip 3: Involve the referring employees in the process

  • Involve them by asking for a warm introduction
  • Have your employees greet the candidate(s) that they refer and give them a tour
  • Give them feedback on the process

Recognize them for their efforts

Tip 4: During the interview, include both knowledge-based and behavioural-based questions

Find out whether the candidate:

  • Has the intelligence and aptitude or “hard skills”
  • Can handle stressful deadlines and “think on their feet”
  • Can work through unpleasant situations to get things done

Identify and ask about the candidate’s fit with other key competencies needed to succeed at your startup.

Tip 5: Make mining employee networks a continuous process even when not actively hiring

  • Hold informal brainstorming sessions (especially with your top talent) to create lists of potential hires
  • Track information gained for future use