The Ri5 interview: 
Guido Nieuwkamp, SocialReferral

The Ri5 interview:
Guido Nieuwkamp, SocialReferral

Guido is the Co-Founder and Product Director of SocialReferral, an employee referral and advocacy platform. SocialReferral is now part of CareerBuilder, alongside their sister business Broadbean. Ri5 caught up with Guido to find out how SocialReferral is leading the way in social media recruiting and employee referral.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I studied psychology because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Then, when I finished university, I still wasn’t sure. As is the case for many people who aren’t sure what direction to head in, I ended up in recruitment, which I worked in for six years before starting SocialReferral.

What motivated you to develop SocialReferral in the first place?

In my time as a recruiter, it became clear that the whole employee referral part was a missed opportunity, and that didn’t make sense to me. In 2007/2008 I researched what referral systems were available, and there weren’t many. Then, when I was at a party with a friend of mine, I started talking about potentially creating a referral tool and he was really interested. He introduced me to a software developer and during 2009 we developed the first version. In 2010 we quit our day jobs and started the company. When we launched, the economy wasn’t at its best. But in spite of that, we built our client base quite quickly. Possibly because we were offering a significantly more cost effective method of recruitment, at a time when costly agency fees were to be avoided at all costs. We’ve not stopped growing since.

When were you acquired by CareerBuilder?

We were independent until late 2014.  We were acquired by CareerBuilder and now work as part of the Broadbean team, sharing their resources to supercharge our development. It’s great. We’re still like a start-up in terms of the environment, but we have the security of working as part of a bigger company. And yet, we are small enough and agile enough to make quick choices.

What’s SocialReferral all about?

SocialReferral is a platform that aims to leverage the power of your employee’s personal and professional social networks, using a unique rewards system to engage your employees; encouraging them to share company updates and job roles across their social channels.  The primary aim is to amplify the organisation's employer brand message and increase the number of referral candidates applying for their roles.

There are two main problems with traditional referral schemes, firstly it’s often a manual process for the employee to enrol in a schemeand secondly, the referral reward can take months to come to fruition and will often be based on whether the referral candidate passes probation. 

The SocialReferral platform allows employees to share jobs and content from wherever they are via the mobile app. To incentivise this behaviour we’ve introduced micro-awards. The idea is not to give the whole reward at the end when somebody's been hired, but to break that reward into smaller parts, so each behaviour is rewarded accordingly, from sharing a job, to the candidate going to interview – because everything is integrated with your ATS. It encourages and incentivises correct behaviour from the outset. The rewards are bespoke to the organisation, so employees could be rewarded with anything from a cup of coffee to a donation to their favourite charity.

Finally, we make success visible and encourage competition between teams and individuals using gamification. This maintains employee engagement with the platform as they always have something to work towards.

What sort of challenges are your clients facing?

The biggest problem, of course, is that theydon't hire enough through referral and they rely on agencies to bring in talent which is expensive. Their company is a huge network, but it's not being utilised. They understand by hiring more people through referrals it lowers the cost per hire whilst increasing the quality of candidates. The time to hire is shorter too, so it's still considered the Holy Grail.

Also, a lot of companies struggle with the process. Perhaps their referral programme is not formalised, so referral CVs can come in hard copy, via email, or via a link. It's hard for them to keep track of who's sending the referral, and therefore who to allocate the reward to.

Finally, they have difficulty with the social advocacy part. We started experimenting with advocacy in 2013 and we incorporated it into the programme in 2014. A lot of companies have a strong corporate brand, but the employer brand may not be as strong. Although they may have a career website, not all of their employees are interacting with it or sharing their experiences of working there. We can help businesses to encourage this.

What challenges have you faced?

One of the biggest challenges we’ve come across is how companies still struggle with social media and the freedom that comes with it. Our tool allows content to be pre-approved by a moderator, but this still requires a degree of trust. We have recently carried out a piece of research with UK HR Directors about the challenges they face when using social media company-wide to drive recruitment. The E-book is available on our website 

What have been the major developments since being acquired by CareerBuilder?

We’ve been able to make SocialReferral available on a global level, with different languages available across a large number of countries. We have implemented a voucher programme in our system, enabling employees to start receiving micro rewards. We’ve built native IOS and Android apps, and a version of our whole tool which can be embedded in a company’s intranet. The list goes on. The latest development we’re really excited about is peer-to-peer communication and our ‘market place’ approach to the micro rewards, where employees can save the points they receive to purchase rewards of a greater value.

A future development we're going to introduce is peer power. If a job is live in the referral programme, a notification is received by the hiring manager, who can easily invite their team to share the details to prospective candidates. The hiring manager receives details of which team members have been active in promoting the role, and the results.

What would you say is your USP?

We’ve got lots. A major USP is that we’ve been doing this for seven years; we know what works and what doesn't. We have the only tool that offers an integrated employee referral and social advocacy tool in one. As a recruitment tool that has extended in the advocacy domain, it means SocialReferral integrates with many ATS systems and understands the recruitment process very well. Add in the micro rewards system, peer-to-peer communication and peer power, we’re ahead of the rest.

What's your elevator pitch to explain the tool's value?

SocialReferral’s strength comes from focussing on the employee. By making them active ambassadors for their company, the recruitment team benefit from more referral hires, and the branding and marketing teams benefit from improved interaction with their brand.

What do your clients see as the benefits of working with SocialReferral?

The most tangible benefit is that clients start hiring more people through referral. One client, a leading mobile communications provider in the Netherlands, has been using SocialReferral for six years. Previously they received 10-15% referrals. Since using SocialReferral, 40-45% of their hires are now via referral. Companies also like the advocacy side. They see visible interactions with their brand – can see the traffic to their site surge and see a significant increase in engagement with their social media platforms.

What does the future hold for SocialReferral?

To grow globally. We’re expanding rapidly in France, the UK, North America, Canada, Singapore and the Netherlands. From a product point of view, we are really focused on staying ahead of the curve. To be the most innovative.

For more information please visit


Thursday, 19 October 2017

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