Think Of The “5 Best People You Know” Referrals: Give Me 5, A No-Cost Name Generating Tool

Take a minute and think…who are the best people you have ever worked with? How long would it take for you to make a list of the 5 brightest managers, problem solvers or idea people you have worked with? It’s not only easy, but it can also be one of the most powerful, no-cost recruiting tools on the planet. Why? Because we all cross the paths of great talent sometime in our life. It might turn out that the best sourcers at your firm are right under your nose: your own employees! Active Referrals/Sourcing Traditional referral programs are great, but you don’t need one in order to gather some of the best names possible (as recruiting prospects). Most referral programs are “passive” in that they don’t seek out individual employees and ask them to participate in the program. As a result, participation is often low (below 50%). Traditional employee referrals can also be weak because 1) referees are generally people that the employee has recently met, and 2) referees are generally not people that the employee has worked directly with. What is needed is a program that focuses on getting top candidates that your best people have actually worked with. A more proactive approach is to actively seek out the best people in your organization and directly ask them to contribute referral names of the best people they have ever worked with. I call this program “Give Me 5.”What Is A “Give Me 5″ Name Referral Program? The “Give Me 5″ (GM5) program is based on the fact that all of us come across some extremely talented people in our lives, but we never take the time to list them for our recruiters. Employees know in their mind who these “stars” are, but we often need a “trigger” to stimulate an employee into actually giving us the names for our use in recruiting. In a GM5 program, top performers are asked to think back and remember the names of the 5 very best co-workers, thought leaders, and managers they have ever worked with. Most recruiting has a weakness because it involves hiring “strangers.” Strangers meaning that most of the people we interview are people we have just met. Because we don’t really know them, we can easily make an error in a quick assessment. An alternative is to hire people we already know. Referral programs are the best way not to hire “strangers,” because you are hiring people that your employees already know and have pre-assessed. GM5 Program Goals

  1. Develop some immediate leads (that are high quality and pre-assessed).
  2. Make every employee a continuous talent scout (make them “own” recruiting).
  3. Develop a “who’s who” database of the top talent in your industry/field.
  4. Utilize it as a prospect database.

Categories Of People To List (Name Stimulators) When you think back over your life there are always special people that leave an indelible mark in your mind because of some skill they have. A GM5 program is designed to get employees to list the very best people they have worked with. Next, a recruiter can follow and sell the people on these “5 best” lists on the benefits of working for your firm. Employees (top performers) should be given the following categories to trigger their memory: Think back and remember the names of the very best…

  1. Manager you ever had
  2. Team leader
  3. Idea person or innovator
  4. Out-of-the-box thinker
  5. Problem solver
  6. Sales person that beat you time after time in head-to-head competition
  7. Student in college who was so smart and effective
  8. Mentor
  9. Person under pressure
  10. Team player/Co-worker
  11. Executive
  12. Forecaster (predictor)
  13. Technical skilled person
  14. International talent
  15. People with diverse backgrounds
  16. Professor/teacher
  17. Customer service person

Put these name “stimulators” on a GM5 form to help stimulate an employees memory about the best people they ever worked for/with. For each name, also ask about their specific talent and how to contact them. Steps In A GM5 ProgramThere are two variations in GM5 programs. The first variation is an informal process that is run by individual managers. That variation requires no budget or approval. The second type is a company-wide program, which is more complex. Here are the possible steps in setting up a company-wide GM5 program:

  • Outline the program to managers in order to get their buy in.
  • Do a small pilot test in one group to debug and refine the program.
  • Prepare a list of your employees to target. Start with your top performers, top salespeople, and people in “hard to fill” positions. You can then expand the participation to the general population (it turns out mediocre people have also worked with some excellent talent).
  • Make up a simple one-page form (or email) for them to fill out. Include on it the purpose of the program, the “name stimulator” categories (listed above), and a column for both the special skill of the person and how/where they might be contacted. Refine the form so it can be completed in 5 minutes or less.
  • Ask top performers to “search their address book (or do a palm pilot dump?) for the names of people that fit the criteria. Send an e-mail reminder to those that do not respond to the GM5 request.
  • Ask the employee to pre-assess the names and prioritize them by “fit” and possible interest in your firm.
  • Suggest that they could personally call/email the person to begin “selling them” on the belief that they are the kind of person you need, and that “someday they will work here.
  • Also develop a one-page “pitch” sheet to give them some powerful arguments and tools to help build the candidate’s interest in working for your firm. Remember, knowing great people is not the same skill as being able to sell your jobs to them – so expect that your employees will need some “sales” help.
  • Consider developing rewards (most don’t need them, but it does draw attention to the program) for just submitting the form (e.g. for a single name $1, for filling out the entire form $20 and for each person they call and convince them to submit a resume $25. Give the regular referral bonus, plus 50% (because these are “A+” names) for an actual hire.
  • Have a sourcer/recruiter make a preliminary sort of the names and call or email the top ones directly, or give the ranked list to managers for their final selections.
  • After doing phone interviews, give the manager the resumes of the best GM5 referrals for final selection and interviewing. People on the list that express an interest in our firm should be made “friends of xyz”. Later you can ask them to fill out the form and be a future referral source (talent scout).
  • Add the acquired names to our “who’s who” prospect database.
  • Develop tracking metrics to see which departments have the highest (lowest) participation rates. Distribute the list monthly to all managers. See if HR will make GM5 participation a part of a managers performance bonus.
  • Develop tracking metrics to see whether the GM5 program produces a higher proportion of top performers than other sourcing programs.

Distributing The GM5 Form There are a variety of ways to get the GM5 form filled out. Some approaches include:

  • Send it in an e-mail.
  • Distribute (and collect) it during your regular staff meeting or conferences.
  • Put it in the company newsletter.
  • Give it to major customers, ex-employees and the references of the top performing new hires.
  • Ask a good friend in your same job at another firm to also fill it out
  • Distribute it with the performance appraisal package .
  • Post it on bulleting boards .
  • Include it in the pay envelope.
  • Develop a web site so that the form can be easily completed 24/7 from anywhere. Add functionality so that names can be continually added by employees.


  • Consider “paying for lunch” when top performers want to meet to “sell” the top candidate on their list.
  • Consider “guaranteeing” at least a phone interview to the best candidates.
  • Invite all of the top names to an on-site open house to get to know them and to begin the soft sell.
  • Offer to make all of them “friends of XYZ”. Then send them product information, discounts and a “what’s happening” email newsletter.
  • Consider giving $5 for a name of any person in a “high demand” job at a direct competitor.
  • Consider asking former top employees for names.


A GM5 program is simple and effective. Individual managers can do it on their own, without corporate approval. If you try it you might also find out some interesting things. Like…

  1. Many employees will provide names that you already have from your other employees (it turns out that there are a finite number of stars in any industry, and few of them are a secret).
  2. There will be a higher diversity hire rate than traditional want ads.
  3. The GM5 names from your top employees will be the highest quality hires (top performers) of ANY source you use! (It is also fast and cheap, if that matters.)

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

Check Also

Hiring Innovators – The Highest Impact Action In Talent Management (Highlighting the benefits from hiring innovators)

Hiring has the highest bus. impact in HR, and innovators produce the highest impact of …