Clever Reference Checks

land lineI was reading a blog post recently about a clever way to do a reference check. The method is simple and can be highly effective if done right.

Basically, get several references from the potential employee and then call each of them around lunch time or after hours. The point is to call at a time when the reference will not be in the office (not a typo). You then leave a message saying something along the lines of “Bob Smith is in the process of interviewing to be an ABC Engineer here at XYZ Corp and listed you as a reference. Please call me back if you feel he was outstanding.”

While not everyone will get the message or call you back, the idea is that it will all be relative depending on the strength of the candidate. If you call five references for candidate A and get four calls back, that’s a good sign. If you call five references for candidate B and get no calls back, that isn’t such a great sign.

People will usually do whatever they can to give positive references if they’re well deserved. People legitimately leave jobs on positive terms and when it’s handled well, bosses (or whoever was named as a reference) often have nice things to say.

However, if a candidate is less than outstanding, a lot people are hesitant to say that much. The threat of lawsuits is always there and reference checks for employees who weren’t great tend to present a lot of potential problems for very few benefits. This method lets those people say something without actually saying anything (or going out of their way) and still lets the good people get great reviews.

photo credit: mangpages

2 Responses to “Clever Reference Checks”

  1. BP said:

    Aug 13, 09 at 1:41 pm

    Did you read the comments left on that Ben Casnocha post? Some good concerns are raised.

    Most notably, this method is incompatible with many large companies’ policy of merely confirming a past employee’s service, and not speaking at all to their quality. This is done to avoid claims that past a employer has sabotaged a worker’s attempts at landing a new job. So rather than say anything potentially harmful (or failing to say something sufficiently favorable), they say nothing.

    Inasmuch as a return call or lack of one is either way presumed to offer insights a previous company might be unwilling to provide, this referral-check technique can’t be deemed reliable — to say nothing of other factors (laziness, business, forgetfulness, etc.) that could prevent a person from calling back.

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