A Thing Called “References”

A Thing Called “References”

A Thing called “References”


Last week, one my friends who recently starting dating another friend of mine invited me out to lunch. Things were going well with Jackie (not her real name), but like with any other new relationship, Bob (not his real name) had questions. Little did I know, Bob was about to check her references on me.
In my last post, I wrote about the importance of relying less on feeling and more on data. Fact is, we’re taking references all the time. We just don’t call them that. References are a great (read: necessary) way to gain valuable insight into our potential hires. However, a little preparation and organization need to go into this pivotal conversation.

Here’s what to look for:

• Context: Understanding the relationship between the reference and the candidate will help us understand the lay of the land. It’s important to understand how long they have known each other and how often they keep in touch. “Buddy references” should be taken with a grain of salt.
• Strengths are easy to diagnose. Go after specific competencies related to the candidate’s new job and areas in need of improvement.
• Compliments are cheap. Look for stories. And if the person insists on compliments, stay on the look out for the use of the same set of adjectives from different people (yes, taking more than one reference is a requirement). Look for consistency.
• Beware of pauses. And allow those pauses to get awkward… Really. Awkward. That’s where the “moment of truth” typically lies.
• Assume nothing. Ask for concrete examples.
• Backdoor references are extremely valuable as most given references can fall into the “buddy” category. Ask the buddy reference: “Who else worked with/for Jackie?”
• If the candidate’s references check out, make sure to ask for “how to manage Jackie” tips.

Back to the budding romance between Bob and Jackie, I’m happy to report, the two of them are still dating. Appears their references checked out!