Leveraging networking and referrals in talent acquisition

In the early stages of your company’s growth, referrals are a great way to find like-minded, well-suited candidates that will help scale your business. These referrals can come from a variety of sources—current employees, advisors and friends in the community—so networking is absolutely vital.

Networking is a verb

Networking is a reciprocal exchange of value.

Before embarking on any concerted networking efforts, recognize that you will need to build genuine connections that will require ongoing energy and development. These should not be simply transactions in order to find a candidate—if you nurture them, who knows what benefits will come down the line. 

Many people just talk about networking as a sales or hiring interaction, but this misses some of the huge opportunities and value-added relationships you can develop. 

There is nuance in how you can leverage networking to help your recruiting efforts, and it’s important to incorporate all of them into your recruiting strategy

But who should I engage with?

It’s easy to expend a lot of energy connecting with individuals and organizations that don’t drive results. So here is a guide to the right places to invest your time and money to make the biggest impact on your hiring.

Amplifiers and influencers

There are already people in your periphery and extended network (friends of friends, connections from VCs) who have cultivated a large audience. You can leverage some of that reach by building relationships and co-creating mutually beneficial content. 

Once the relationship is established, they can help draw positive attention to open roles and help you make other connections through their network.

VCs, investors and your board

Those with capital are always central to a market and exceptionally well-connected, especially to candidates for executive or leadership positions. 

Begin with your own immediate circle and be transparent about your hiring needs, asking for feedback on the types of roles you’re hiring for and, finally, for recommendations for introductions.

Remember, your board is invested in your success, so you should work with them to guarantee that success.

Subject matter experts

Assessing talent to ensure you hire the right team members is challenging at the best of times. By connecting proactively with experts within the field you are hiring, you can gain access to people they can recommend from prior experience and get their perspective on anyone you are considering for the role. 

You can engage these experts in the interview process, not just for specific candidate recommendations. Don’t be afraid to compensate them for interviewing, as these individuals will dramatically elevate your chances of success and are fantastic allies on your growth journey.


Generally, individuals who fit well within your company will be able to identify people from their networks and previous employers who might be a strong match. At the early stages, it’s everybody’s responsibility to contribute to making hires, and referrals are a low-lift, high-impact way to do that.

Consider incentivizing your employees for successful introductions and hires—at Opencare, we had a cash incentive that was available for both employees and external referrals. 

The benefit of employee referrals is that as the company grows, so does the number of referrals, so start early and ensure it’s ingrained in your company culture.

Key take-aways

  • Networking is an activity—invest your energy strategically.
  • Don’t just focus on finding candidates. Look for other ways relationships can add value.
  • Building a network is everyone’s responsibility all the time, not just when resolving the need for an immediate hire.