The other night at dinner with a business associate (and good friend), he mentioned he was about to call a potential employee and make them a job offer. He sounded concerned about something, hesitant.
He had done all the right things. Interviewed the candidate himself first. Used behavioral interviewing techniques tied to his firm’s core values to really learn about the candidate’s background. Leveraged other professionals he trusted to do follow up interviews.
“How did the reference checks go?” I asked. Oops! He forgot to check the references.
Not an uncommon issue. Most references are listed by a candidate for a reason. They will say nothing but good things. Therefore, many people don’t even check them anymore. When really pushed for weaknesses, most references still won’t crack. But there is a technique that almost always works.
Just tell the truth. You are trying to learn the areas where you can help the candidate to make the most of their new opportunity.
After confirming their relationship to the candidate, try this approach; “We are considering (candidate’s name) for an offer of employment, and we need your help to set them up for success. Can you give us a few ideas on areas we can work with (candidates name) to help them be successful in this new opportunity?”
When positioned in this manner, references almost always open up and become real people, not just a rubber stamp. Be sincere, maybe even a little vulnerable and show how much you truly care about helping new hires be successful. No doubt your positive, open and honest approach will get back to the candidate as well. What a great way to start the relationship.
Photo credit to Glenn Carstens-Peters