How to Get Good Information from References


“Given the information on his job application and his performance during interviews, you would have thought he could leap tall buildings in a single bound,” a manager said about a recent hire.  “I called his references.  All parties reinforced our assessment.”

Three months into the job, the employee’s good spirits morphed into mood swings.  Bad habits sprung up like weeds after a spring rain.  Whining seemed to be in his DNA.

To get better information from references, you have to dig deeper and go beyond the candidate’s hand-picked supporters.  Say to the applicant, “When I call your references, I will ask each of them for two or three other names of people who knew you.  You don’t mind if I do that do you?”

Most candidates will say, “Sure, go ahead.”  But if a candidate hesitates to give permission, a serious red flag emerges in my mind.

With cooperative applicants, I have nine to twelve potential references, most of which have not been screened.  Although it is tedious and time consuming, information from second-tier references is much more revealing.

Getting the right people on the bus is critical and reference checking is no place to take short cuts.