To check, or not to check references, that is the question?

People often ask me why I bother conducting reference checks when candidates are only going to give names of people who like them, right? Wrong!

Have you ever interviewed someone and have this niggling doubt about their character? Why not ask the question in the reference check? The referee can either confirm or deny how you are feeling.

We had a candidate, say her name was “Julie” who breezed her way through the interview, never admitting to fault or having made any mistakes. I had alarm bells going off in my head. How can a person be so perfect that they have never made an error and how could they not take the opportunity to learn from their mistakes? When I asked Julie’s referee how Julie dealt with negative feedback? Her manager said “she was terrible at taking on feedback and admitting mistakes, she thinks she is perfect”. We didn’t hire Julie!

In fact, reference checks should not be standard, they should be tailored to each role and should also include questions that ensure the candidates aligns with the values of the company.

At Proclaim, we also use a process called “top grading” interviews. Topgrading is a chronological interview that takes candidates through their full career. With candidates motivated to be totally honest, you delve into every job – and every success, failure, key decision, and key relationship including manager relationships.

We find the threat of reference check (or TORC Technique) to be very effective in soliciting honest answers from candidates. At every step in the hiring process, we remind candidates that before receiving an offer from our organisation, we will speak to their manager and confirm their story.

At the end of this process we conduct thorough top grading reference checks to confirm the story of the referee vs the potential new Proclaimer. If the stories match then we know that they have been honest throughout the process.

So when hiring, make sure you have tailored reference check questions. If you don’t, you are missing a great opportunity to confirm if the person really is who they say they are, in the interview.

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