Start doing reference properly
I’ve written about references already a few times. Why? Because regardless what happens in the 2-step recruitment process, someone somewhere needs reminding that a reference is better than a CV plus an interview. The fact remains that some companies, employers or line managers sometimes don’t do references (or “outsource” this to HR/recruiters) and undergo a huge risk along the way. So let’s break it down into two simple parts.
Get the right person
The first thing you must do is find the right person to take the reference from. If you’re going to manage the new hire, then their previous superior is the person to speak to. You have to phone them, not email them or accept a signed letter from them. When you phone them, doing references properly means making sure you have them on the line and not some friend of the candidate on their mobile phone. Be a bit of a detective and phone the switchboard of their company and ask for their business title and see if you are put through to them: “Hi, could I speak to your Sales Manager?” Rings… “Hi, Jack speaking!” Now, is Jack the guy on their reference list?
Ask the right questions
When you speak to them, don’t just ask questions that allow a yes or no answer. Dig deep and ask for examples on how they performed and why they answer yes or no to some questions. Find out what their best and worst qualities were. Ask the manager, from one manager to another, how can you best manage this person?
Someone in recruitment I spoke to recently said that they even try to meet references, even if it means only doing so further down the line.
The bottom line is this: if you aren’t speaking to the right person or asking the right questions, it’s a waste of time. Get your questions ready beforehand and dig during the phone call.