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An Empirical and Theoretical Investigation of the Complexities of Employee Referrals in Organizations

Steven D Schlachter, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


When organizations have an opening for employment, one method of recruitment is through employee referrals, which utilize the social networks of incumbent organizational members (referrers) to locate job seekers. Employee referrals are unmatched compared to more traditional recruiting techniques in that they allow a potential applicant (a referred worker) to interact with a referrer who has more complete information about the job opening and understands the referred worker's knowledge, skills, and abilities. In addition, referrals allow the organization to tap into desirable applicant populations that may have been unsolicited through other recruitment methods and to attract applicants with a more thorough understanding of the job's nature. These theoretical arguments have gained traction in the literature as conceptual justification for the higher performance and reduced turnover that referred workers tend to show in comparison to other employees. While promising, the literature has taken a relatively segmented approach that has not treated referring as a complex interaction that develops over time. Therefore, the purpose of this dissertation is twofold. First, I seek to offer a more comprehensive view of referring in organizations by reviewing the existing literature across a variety of disciplines and developing a model that reflects both established and theorized pathways, thus offering new directions for future research. Second, I seek to test some of the pathways formulated through this model in two studies. In the first study, I examine how referred workers may receive positive or negative treatment in the selection process as a function of the referrer's characteristics, finding support for the importance of referrer power and previous referring behavior. The second study investigates how referrer turnover intent and affective commitment are affected by a referred worker's rejection at the firm. Taken together, these studies bridge multiple portions of the proposed model and continue recent research that accounts for the dyadic nature of employee referrals.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Schlachter, Steven D, "An Empirical and Theoretical Investigation of the Complexities of Employee Referrals in Organizations" (2018). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI10793308.