Referrals and human memory


Relying on recall instead of recognition is a serious weakness of the typical employee referral system.

As I didn’t know what else to study when I got to college I studied psychology. It so happened that it was quite fascinating and I really enjoyed it. As a recruiter I have often found that things I learned in school (marketing and psychology) have very practical applications in my work.

Take employee referral programs for example. Most employee referral programs are highly reactive and depend upon the engagement level of employees to upload their social media connections, or specific individuals. It’s a difficult process that is getting increasingly better with new platforms that provide matching and gamified results for easier engagement.

Our goal is to harness the potential of recognition over recall, and we believe simple psychology can make a big difference in recruiting.

While these new platforms are good at managing referrals once they come in, I don’t think these solutions fulfil their potential in helping employees actually get the referrals, or recruiters to go one step further and drive direct sourcing of quality candidates.

This is why we created Referable. Our goal is to put sourcing and referral management into the one platform that enables smooth and valuable collaboration between recruiters and employees, while enabling faster referral generation, and building of high quality passive talent pools for direct sourcing.


The typical referral program still relies on a memory process known as “recall”. As in, employees have to “recall” who to refer. What Referable does is use “recognition” instead of recall (which people can still do anytime!). Providing leads that employees may recognize as worthy of contact either as a referral or by direct sourcing, has true value to a recruiter.

Consider the following example that demonstrates the difference between recall and recognition:

  • If I ask you what the name of the actress who played Princess Leia was, you may or may not recall the name.
  • If on the other hand I asked you if Carrie Fisher played Princess Leia, you would instantly recognize her name.

That is the difference between being forced to recall something from memory, and recognizing something from a list.

We can apply this in referral generation. The question “do you know any good people with XYZ skills?”, forces me to recall someone without any context or aiding process to help my (increasingly poor) memory. It gets worse when I am busy.

Compare that question to “do you know any of these people who have XYZ skills?” while showing me a list of prequalified prospects that I am mostly going to know.

This time I am able to instantly identify the names that I know, and skip past the ones I don’t. I am in a much better position to have a meaningful conversation with you about who I can contact as a referral or recommend to you (the recruiter) as a high potential prospect. The very act of engaging into the conversation may also lead me to recall other names who are not on the list.


When it comes to collaboration Referable also seeks to simplify the process. Most efforts by recruiters are limited to the 1st degree connections of employees, while Referable goes much further. In fact Referable aims to access all former colleagues that are publicly visible on the internet.

Meanwhile, instead of dragging employees into 30 minute calls or meetings to walk through contacts, we can push names to them for an easy one-click response in their own time. Making collaboration free from intrusion is critical to win the hearts and minds of a recruiters colleagues, and this is where Referable can also help.

Our goal is to harness the potential of recognition over recall, and we believe simple psychology can make a big difference in recruiting. By providing visibility into every employee’s referable network®, Referable seeks to dramatically improve recruiter-employee collaboration, resulting in more referrals, and more direct sourcing opportunities to hire quality talent. Agencies can then be leveraged more strategically to fill in the gaps.

With Referable we are aiming for faster, better and cheaper hiring!!

For more ideas on how to leverage your referable networks®, ask us at

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