Why are References so Important?
If I had a nickel for everyone who told me that checking references was a waste of time because a candidate would never submit as a reference someone who did not like them....I'd be, well, not rich but I would have a lot of nickels!
I recently called a reference of an office manager I was hiring and the reference said "wow, I am so surprised she used me as a reference". She then proceeded to explain why this candidate was not suitable for the job.
I called another reference for a loan processor position that I was hiring and she told me that this candidate is a very talented and skilled loan processor who is very organized. Before we hung up I said, "we all have areas to work on, what would you suggest that this candidate should work on to get to the next level professionally". That's when the flood gates opened and she told me that this candidate often had quite an attitude.
Although many candidates present well during the interview phase, this is not always reflective of their performance at a previous position. Before making any hasty decisions on a single candidate or ruling other candidates out, speaking with at least 3 professional references is crucial to the recruiting and hiring process. Keep in mind; they will often be great references.
Strong candidates will have excellent references from previous supervisors and/or co-workers; however, candidates that exaggerate their skills can often be exposed during this process. Many times references are not quite as blunt. As a recruiter, it's important to read between the lines. A reference that does not want to comment on a question is a red flag. Additionally, a reference who says they have a company policy to refer all questions to HR, can be a red flag as well. Most often, a supervisor of a candidate who performed well on-the-job will still go out of his/her way to help them in their job search.
This is where a professional recruiter can help. A professional recruiter who has experience understanding people can read between the lines, pick up on innuendos in the speech patterns of the reference, and know what to ask even when they have referred you to HR. The most important part about checking a reference is to ask questions. You would be surprised at how much information you can learn if you just ask. For more information on questions to ask a reference please call me or email me and I would be happy to provide more information.