“Of course, I can get a hell of a good look at a T-Bone steak by sticking my head up a bull’s ass, but I’d rather take the butcher’s word for it.” – Tommy Callahan in Tommy Boy.
Many recruiters look at reference checks as a mere formality, like something that just has to be done to complete the hiring of the preferred candidate, but when performed thoroughly and properly, they can be a great benefit to your business. In addition to preventing bad hires and validating a good candidate’s professional information, reference checks can serve as sourcing and networking channels for every recruiter.
But first things first. To start, recruiters and hiring leaders need do more than just go through the motions when it comes to reference checks. I had the opportunity to catch up with three recruitment leaders to discuss common misconceptions and how they’ve refined their own reference check process through the years.
Orlando Haynes is the Founder of The Insider Recruiter LLC, author of “Inside Career Tips All Job Seekers Should Know,” and Branch Manager at Diversified Sourcing Solutions in Florida. Previously he’s held full-time recruiting roles at Accounting Now, Coast Dental and Hire Ed Solutions. His take on reference checks is that much can be gleaned from reading between the lines:
“The days of letters of recommendation are gone. Paper, words, and signature no long hold value. We need to speak with supervisors to truly get a sense of an individual’s work ethic, character, and performance. Listening to the voice tone and how they give feedback is important. We can tell if they are holding something back.”
Angela Berardino, the Chief Strategy & Integration Officer for Turner PR, has handled the majority of the company’s reference checks over the last 8 years. She’s developed a simple must-do rule that differs from Orland Haynes’ approach:
“Make sure that you interview one person who reported into your potential hire, rather than focusing exclusively on references who supervise. It may sound basic, but I’ve never received a proactive reference list that includes an employee; I’ve always had to ask. And the more junior person will have great insight into how this person delegates, how they manage time, and how they treat every level of a team.”
Cathy Mobley is the Director of Talent at FMG Leading, a leadership consulting firm. Over the past 30 years, FMG Leading has advised, coached, and educated more than 30,000 leaders in 10 countries. She provided us with an exclusive and tangible one-two-three process that can help just about anyone conduct better reference checks:
- Carefully look at who the candidate is listing as references.
- Are the reference names being provided from their most recent job? If not, ask why.
- Is the person their direct boss or a colleague/friend? If it’s a friend, I don’t call for a reference.
- How to uncover the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses.
- I inform the reference that our firm is committed to growing and developing all our teammates. Then ask, what do we need to know to ensure this candidate is successful at our firm from the start? And what’s an opportunity we should focus on to help them grow?
- Besides asking questions to verify dates of employment and job position held, I dig a little deeper.
- Ask if they would rehire this person if they had the chance? Why or why not?
- Ask why the person left the position.
- I let them know the position for which we are interested in hiring the candidate and ask how they think the person will perform in that capacity.
By following this thorough list, you’ll form more accurate profiles of your potential hires in no time. Did this article make you think of any reference check tips we missed? Just tweet @MightyRecruiter. Would be great to hear from you!