ThirdLove has a brilliant trick for finding talented job candidates.

Every week, they highlight their most pressing open roles through a program called “Hot Jobs.” Then, they enlist ThirdLove employees to help scout out those diamond-in-the-rough candidates. So far, Hot Jobs has multiplied the number of quality candidates streaming in while tightening the timeline for filling roles.  

“It’s about finding those people we really needed like five days ago,” explains Heidi.

Want in on their approach? Here’s how to roll out a similar employee referral program at your small business.

Step 1: Give employees exclusive access to open roles—before you make them public

Your employees probably have connections to stellar candidates. Your job? Lassoing together those powerful networks.

And it’s pretty easy to do. If you’re hiring a new designer, simply ask your current designers to comb through their LinkedIn networks for prospects and have them reach out—before you make the listing public on a job board.

That allows you to conduct interviews for these referrals before you spend time and money on outside job postings.

Step 2: Write the unofficial job description

Don’t just send out the job title you’re looking for; wrap in the tiny details that you’ll zero in on during the interview.

ThirdLove moonlight

Let’s say you own a children’s clothing store. Instead of saying you need a cashier with two years of experience, add that you want someone to work on weekends, has a love of kids, and is interested in eventually becoming a buyer.

Those details will help your team get a better grasp of the role and who might be a fit.

Focus on these categories as you add color to each open req:

  • The top skills needed: What would make this person successful?
  • Description of the tasks/projects they’d work on: What does a normal day look like?
  • Your vision for the role: How will the role evolve?

Step 3: Throw a sourcing party

Think about it—a cold email from one of your employees is way better than a cold email from a recruiter.

So, fire off those emails. Order lunch, and ask your team to hang out and source candidates together. Send out a spreadsheet with the list of open roles you’re looking for, and instruct people to drop in the LinkedIn profiles of candidates who may be a fit.

Copy this spreadsheet template to get your sourcing party started.

Pro tip: Include a list of keywords for each role so people have an easier time sifting through LinkedIn.

For instance, if you’re trying to hire a new attorney, include keywords around schools, areas of expertise, and synonyms for titles.

  • Example: Attorney — Lawyer — Associate — Family Law — Columbia Law School

Step 4: Hand out a referral bonus (or even a small prize if you can’t afford a bonus)

ThirdLove doubles the referral bonus for Hot Jobs candidates. Even if you can’t afford to give out a cash bonus, consider giving your team some kind of incentive: gift cards, free meals, massages, and spa treatments are all good options.

Remember, it’s usually cheaper to give a referral bonus or prize than pay a hefty recruiting agency fee.

True story: Your employees are the best recruiters you’ve got. So create opportunities that reward them for pulling in candidates from their networks. They know your culture best, and can therefore spot the most talented candidates—more so than any pixel-perfect job board.

Kira Deutch Kira Deutch is a former Gusto editor. She has a background in publishing and content marketing for startups.
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