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5 Ways to Better Leverage Your Referrals to Hire Top Talent If you're looking to expand your company with a talented employee base, leveraging referrals is the first step to finding and enticing the best candidates.

By Deborah Baimas Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When it comes to building a successful company, the time is now to focus your energy on the people who fill its ranks. Job growth is at its strongest since 1999 and more quality job seekers are actively hunting for and securing new jobs. But how are all these candidates finding their next big opportunity?

One word: referrals. According to Jobvite's annual Social Recruiting Survey, 60 percent of recruiters report that their best candidates come from referrals -- and 63 percent of them plan to increase their investment in the coming year.

If you're looking to expand your company with a talented employee base, leveraging referrals is the first step to finding and enticing the best candidates. To better understand networking at the company-level, here are five unique tips on the art of referrals:

Related: 4 Tips for Making the Right Hires in a Super-Competitive Job Market

1. Practice open-minded referrals.

The key to leveraging the power of referrals starts with being open-minded. Your employees aren't recruiters, so sometimes it's tough for them to know what makes someone a great fit. But remember, not every employee is willing to refer contacts, so when they do, it's important to be flexible in your judgement. A confident testimonial by a current employee is the most valuable reference out there.

So what if they're not a fit for any of the positions you have open at the time? Keep an open mind, and just say, "let's stay connected." Building an extensive network on behalf of your company is a great way to maintain relationships down the line and keep candidates in the pipeline. Once that perfect position opens up, you'll be glad you did.

2. Go where the talent is.

It's not a secret: As a society, we spend hours of our time on social media. Between Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, our social networks are full of friends, family and, as it turns out, potential co-workers. As a recruiter, if you're not active on social media, you are undoubtedly missing out. After all, 73 percent of recruiters have successfully hired a candidate through social media. We know it works.

Make sure you operate professional social accounts, whether that's on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn -- and ensure that you have a fully filled out, accessible profile, so interested job seekers can contact you. Join relevant groups on LinkedIn, or follow company-related hashtags on Twitter. The more you get your name and face out there, the more people know you.

As the figurehead for my company's hiring efforts on social, I've had candidates referred to me by people I've never met before but had a mutual connection on LinkedIn. And don't rule out some of the more casual channels, either. Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat might surprise you in their recruiting effectiveness.

Related: Silicon Valley Won't Save Your Business, But Industry Professionals Will

3. Make a game of it.

When prioritizing referrals, it might seem easy to sit back and let job seekers come to you. But that's not how it works: Without a deep and extensive network of professional connections, referrals are hard to come by. So how can you build such a fruitful social network? Start by making it into a game. Set a goal of making 50 connections per week on LinkedIn. After awhile, your network will take on a life of its own, and you could be up to 2,000 people before you know it. Encourage your employees and hiring managers to do the same and award prizes for those employees that exceed their goals. After all, gaining exposure is paramount to keeping the referrals flooding in.

But don't be afraid to contact others on social media or via email. You can't do your job well without proactive, consistent outreach, so utilize your web of contacts and do some digging. Ask for introductions via contacts in common, and post thoughtful but frequent updates on social to hit the highest number of folks at once.

4. Ask for help.

If you want the help of your employees when expanding your company, you owe it to them to be honest -- especially about growth. Keeping hiring efforts under wraps will just limit your access to quality candidates. Transparency is key: Don't backdoor positions or keep critical hires a secret. Tap into your employee networks to spread the word.

Once per quarter, my recruiting department sends around an email with the details of our referral program, which hires we're really looking to prioritize and how they can help. Sometimes, people don't realize who they have in their networks until they start digging around. The quality talent might be a few layers deep, but its there if you know where to look -- and who to ask.

5. Give 'always on' a new meaning.

Let's face it: We live and breathe our mobile phones everyday -- and that extends to job seeking too. Over 40 percent of job seekers have used their mobile phones to apply for a job and 55 percent of recruiters use or plan to use it to support recruiting efforts.

When it comes to referrals, ensuring easy recommendation and application is key. At ShoreTel, 14 percent of our applicants apply for openings via a mobile device, so we've made sure that our careers site is optimized for mobile. We ensure that these links are on our Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter sites, so our employees can point candidates in the right direction. Reaching talent at every touch point is what referrals are all about, so make sure you don't leave mobile out of the equation.

Related: 5 Surprising Things That May Stop You From Hiring the Right Person

Deborah Baimas

Corporate Recruiter and Social Media Strategist at ShoreTel

Deborah Baimas is a corporate recruiter and leading social media strategist at ShoreTel, an enterprise communications provider headquartered in Sunnyvale, Calif.

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