How To Expand and Leverage Your Corporate Alumni Referral Network

by Alumni Content in Corporate Alumni   |    Last Edited: 16th May 2022

Your corporate alumni network is a powerful tool for your business – it’s simply a case of unleashing its potential. As a community manager, part of your job is to expand and leverage the organization’s alumni referral network. One of the major drivers for this is, of course, to pinpoint recruitment candidates. 

HR thought leader Dr. John Sullivan, who advises Silicon Valley and Fortune 500 firms, estimates that if organizations aren’t getting around 50 percent of their hires from employee referrals, it’s time for them to rethink their hiring approach. 

“Well-designed referral programs not only identify top prospects that are not in a job-search mode but also require employees to assess candidates for skills and fit and to sell them on the company and the job. Taken together, this identification, assessment, and selling feature make referrals superior to any other source,” he told the ERE recruitment community. 

Our own research has shown that alumni and alumni referral programs can fill 20% of your external hires annually. 

It’s not just recruitment where referrals can have an impact, though – they can also be a valuable source of business contacts for lead generation, mentorships, and other business opportunities. With this in mind, let’s look at how you can leverage this community.

What is an Alumni Referral Network?

referral network

An alumni referral network is the network of connections that each member of your corporate alumni community has access to. Every person has family, friends, colleagues, prior employers, and industry acquaintances to who they can reach out and refer business opportunities.


To put this into context – say your organization had a position to fill or a business contact to make – your alumni referral network is one of the spaces where you could share these opportunities. The end result could be a placement that happens through a connected alumnus.  

The short of it is that by tapping into this network, you can extend your reach and access exceptional talent you didn’t know existed.  

Benefits of a Strong Alumni Referral Network

An engaged alumni network is ready to reach out to their connections and find candidates for the business. Here are some of the benefits you can expect when leveraging this power to its potential: 

  • Better culture fit as candidates are pre-screened by alumni who know the business
  • If hired, referrals typically stay longer in jobs than stranger hires
  • Organizations gain a wider reach to talent
  • Shorter hiring lead times than traditional recruiting
  • Higher success rate and lower cost when hiring
  • Brand evangelism as alumni advocate for your business

Five Tips for Community Managers to Leverage Their Corporate Alumni Referral Network

1. Tap Into Your Alumni’s Social Networks

Collectively, your alumni have access to a pool of talent who could be a fit for your opportunity. To access this talent, you can encourage your biggest brand ambassadors to post job openings on their social networks, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. 

When an alumnus ‘advertises’ a job opening, it adds a stamp of approval for the company. They are willing to put the recommendation out to their network and encourage their connections to engage with their former place of work. 

Alumni connections

2. Formalize Your Internal Referral Program

It’s not enough to bank on word-of-mouth or make a simple announcement to your alumni community about your referral program. Instead, use your corporate alumni platform to formally list and share the referral opportunities you have available.   

If you’re using EnterpriseAlumni, the recommendations engine makes it easy for alumni to respond to job openings and introduce people from their personal and professional networks to the recruitment process.

The recruiter dashboard provides community managers with a suite of tools that enable insights and analysis into your alumni population and referral network. As a result, you gain access to second-degree connections that increase referrals and invitations.  

3. Incentivize Alumni to Refer Hires

Incentivizing alumni to refer potential hires is a proven way to inspire proactivity. The age-old question of ‘what’s in it for me’ counts here, especially considering these are former employees who no longer have formal ties to your business. 

Typically, incentives are set not to exceed the cost of hiring or networking. They also do not necessarily have to be monetary. Alumni-exclusive content, company discounts, training courses, and mentorship opportunities can be equally enticing as rewards for successful referrals.  

4. Evaluate Your Employer Brand

The quality of referrals you receive will be in line with your company’s reputation. Do you have a firm grip on your organization’s word on the street? Do you offer attractive employment or contracting terms, a positive culture, and a fair work-life balance? 

Employer brand

Do you have the finger enough on the pulse to pick up when alumni advise their friends and ex-colleagues NOT to join your company? 

Spend time checking the pulse by gathering sentiments from industry forums, job sites, and employee review platforms, such as Glassdoor. 

5. Enroll New Hires in Your Alumni Network From Day One

We always recommend signing up new employees to your alumni network as part of their onboarding process. Mckinsey, for example, has opened its alumni network to both employees and alumni. The business knows that people eventually move on and uses the network as a way to stay in touch. 

The reality is that the moment an employee becomes an alum – and how you nurture them once there – can have a lasting impact on how these people view and advocate for the organization. By letting them know that you are willing to view the relationship in the long term and invest in their success, the benefits can come back tenfold through an engaged and active community. 

Final Words

As with everything in life, it’s most often not what you know but who you know that counts. This is the cornerstone of referral networks that have repeatedly proven to result in better quality talent connections. 

As a business, it’s vital to nurture this network and learn how to leverage it to its potential. EnterpriseAlumni’s platform provides a space where your former employees can easily make recommendations and introductions. Get in touch today to find out how we can help you to expand and engage your alumni network. 

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