For Reference Checks: Consider the Source

Reference checks struck me as odd when I was first became a recruiter a little more than a decade ago and it still seems strange. The reference checking process consists of calling names given to you by the candidate.  That method is the least likely to produce an objective result. No candidate in his or her right mind would direct you to a hiring executive reference who was unhappy with the candidate’s work. References selected by the candidate are put the most positive spin on a candidate’s track record, skills, and abilities. In essence, by relying upon the candidate to provide you with references, you have willingly put on a pair of rose-colored glasses through which you are asked to view the candidate in all his or her imagined glory.

But there is a better way, one detailed by Guy Kawasaki in an article entitled “10 Ways to Use LinkedIn”. Guy is the managing director of Garage Technology Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm and a columnist for Entrepreneur Magazine. Buried in the middle of that list is the following:

5. Perform blind, ‘reverse,’ and company reference checks.

LinkedIn’s reference check tool to input a company name and the years the person worked at the company to search for references. Your search will find the people who worked at the company during the same time period. Since references provided by a candidate will generally be glowing, this is a good way to get more balanced data. Companies will typically check your references before hiring you, but have you ever thought of checking your prospective manager’s references? Most interviewees don’t have the audacity to ask a potential boss for references, but with LinkedIn you have a way to scope her out . . . By the way, if using LinkedIn in these ways becomes a common practice, we’re apt to see more truthful resumes. There’s nothing more amusing than to find out that the candidate who claims to have caused some huge success was a total bozo who was just along for the ride.”

The best recruiters I know do not rely on the candidate’s references alone. Early on, they “calibrate” candidates through more objective sources. For those reference check situations that required bulletproof checks, you can outsource to a firm frequently used by the top retained firms, Kroll.

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