Employee referrals on a global scale: Mind the cultural differences

From pushchairs to universities, restaurants to banks, the opinions, and recommendations of friends and colleagues matter to us. And it’s a similar story when it comes to employers. In fact, employee referrals are becoming a way of life globally—through with significant local differences, as a new white paper explains.

Referral cultures are country-specific.

Since 2014, my main focus at Talentry has been employee referrals. In fact, in international sales, I’ve become something of a missionary on the subject. But I’ve also found that referral cultures are always country-specific.


In France, for example, networks such as university alumni groups play an important role in job searches and career development. Persuading close contacts to join the same clubs and organizations is common. Board members often reject head hunters’ offers in favor of their own LinkedIn contacts – usually those they graduated with. That’s how careers are made.

It’s a bit different in risk-averse Switzerland. Why make a direct recommendation if you could instead provide a neutral or anonymous tip? It’s almost a cliché: the quality of the referred candidates is excellent. Foreign workers, however, are starting to make a difference. And while the referral rate in Switzerland remains relatively low, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it soar in the near future.

In Austria, similarly, employee referrals are becoming more popular. As in France, there is an established culture of recommendations, especially among the Viennese business elite. These days, however, the “old boys’ network” has given way to the smartphone. In just a few clicks, and with the help of the right referral tools (such as Talentry’s) Austrians can refer a friend or share great content.


There’s also a big difference between Europe and the USA. If a European company fills 25 to 35 percent of jobs through employee referrals they are above average, while in the USA, according to a Linkedin study, 40 to 50 percent of hires are generated via employee referral programs. Most US companies have long regarded employee referral programs as the standard. “Bring a friend – earn extra” slogans have more impact there because companies tend to transfer more responsibility to employees. Americans also tend to be more performance-oriented. And they understand the importance of a well-functioning team: studies confirm that referred employees are very often a better cultural fit.

In short, new working methods are gaining ground in most companies across the world – and for good reason. Today’s agile organizations need well-functioning and closely-knit teams. The social networks of each and every employee play a key role in helping define the group of colleagues most likely to motivate us and enhance workplace well-being.


Interested in learning more about international employee referral schemes? Download our whitepaper!



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