Back during the turn of the millennium craze, it seemed that every company around had an employee referral program and was offering big bucks to their staff members to refer potential candidates along for hire.  In fact,  I remember routinely meeting individuals who embraced this alternative revenue stream and were pocketing an extra $5-15K each year by putting their “amateur recruiter” hats on and steering tons of people to their company’s HR department.

Then everything kind of went quiet.  The dot-com meltdown happened, companies weren’t hiring as actively, and these referral programs didn’t really seem to get nearly as much press anymore, even though I’m sure some organizations continued them in low-key fashion.  So it was in light of all of these historical trends that I recently noted — and was intrigued by — the verbiage below on one particular Seattle employer site:


(excerpt from the About page at

Got a referral?  If you send us a candidate that ultimately gets hired, we’ll give you something in return (in addition to our love and appreciation). If you play match maker, you can take your pick between the following items.

•    Apple iPad
•    A Bottle of Macallan 18 (must have been born 21 years ago or more)
•    $300 Gift Card
•    3 Nerf Guns of your choice from the N-Strike Series
•    A Simply Measured T-Shirt
•    1 month of Simply Measured service for free


My first thought?  Perhaps this is a trick question or a sneaky sort of intelligence test — since I can’t imagine anybody would ask to receive nerf guns or a mere tee-shirt when there’s an iPad or a $300 gift card to be had, instead.  Or a nice bottle of scotch, if that’s your scene.  But more importantly, I’m wondering if we’re going to see a resurgence in these kinds of incentive programs as the job market continues to heat up.  Are companies going to once again deputize their current employees to play a bigger role in sourcing and selecting new hires?  Are they going to be throwing lucrative rewards to any and all employees who can help them win the war for talent?  And can enterprising job hunters, such as a number of you out there who follow this blog, benefit from this trend by promoting your skills more proactively to the working people you know?

Just curious if anybody else is seeing a resurgence of this hiring approach out there.  And in fact, after a quick round of research, it seems that quite a few websites have sprung up lately to facilitate this kind of hiring.  For the most part, few of these sites seem to have gained much traction or reached critical mass, but it will be interesting to watch whether one or more of them will gain steam in the months ahead.

Barrel of Jobs (claims $133,000 in referral bonuses available, but only 7 jobs in WA)
JobHuk (very clean, modern interface; only one job listed in Seattle, however)
HireMagic (rudimentary interface; can’t tell if still active, but offers $1,000 per hire)
BountyJobs (different focus; crowd-sources openings to a web of contingency recruiters)
ReferYes (again, aimed more at recruiters, allowing them to search for passive candidates) (cool, but apparently based in Australia; may not apply to U.S. market)
GigPlug (again, well-executed, but based in London and focused on that market alone)
HiringBounty (yet another site of this kind, but solely targeting South Africa)

So definitely chime in with a comment below if you’ve come across some of these paid referral policies in action lately at a local company — or benefited from them in some capacity, either as a referring party or candidate.  Love to hear your thoughts!

P.S.  On a related note, I turned up this article by Jacquelyn Smith that suggests that before we get ahead of ourselves, there may be good reasons to think twice before referring any random acquaintance along to a job at your current company…

12 Things to Consider Before You Refer a Friend to Your Employer