We have all been there and said: “If I had known this, I would never have hired him”. It did not come out in the reference check.
You have shortlisted a superstar with an offer on the table “subject to reference check”.
A reference check should be as comprehensive as a candidate interview. You are trying to verify the same information you get from the candidate through another source. However, a phone reference check is limited by time, hence information is limited.
Some time ago I was recruiting a CEO for one of my long-term clients. It was a crucial role, so it had to be the right candidate. There was no room for a mistake.
I offered a 12-month guarantee, therefore, if the candidate fell off not only would the client lose money, but 11 Recruitment would too.
We found a superstar! Everything looked great from all the digging we could do. So the job was offered “subject to reference checking”.
We had a long list of questions for the referee, way too many for a regular phone call.
So, we created a reference check form for the candidate to complete. We asked the candidate to complete our questions the way he thought the referees would answer.
Sure, it took the candidate a couple of hours to complete, but after 3 interviews he was keen on the role. He also knew this was the last hurdle to overcome. The candidate was compelled to tell the truth because the chances of being caught lying were very high and he knew the consequences.
We emailed the completed form to the referees, asking them to verify what the candidate had written. It took them 10 minutes to read with no writing from them – easy. The referees emailed it back “all verified”. I then called the referee for a 10-minute discussion. We had a short, in-depth conversation, covering more information than we could in a 2-hour reference check.
12 months later, both the client and I said
It takes a lot of digging to eliminate a candidate who looks sensational yet is not up to expectations, but it’s worth it. You will hire more superstars than duds!
Free download of the reference check form I used:
See also: Perfect conditions – don’t complain
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