Talent Titans #9 – Taking Effective References as a Recruiter

Suky dives deep into the Do’s and Dont’s of taking effective references as a recruiter.



Hi I’m Suky from Professional Selection. Today I’d like to talk about how totake effective references.

First of all, we know in most parts of the world it’s illegal to give a bad reference and a lot of employers have now these days
have gone to just confirming dates of employment. That’s not really a reference. So what do you do when somebody has
provided you for example their line manager and you’ve got a contact number for them?

Well first of all, bear in mind nobody is going to give you somebody as a reference that’s going to give them a negative reference, so you just have to
accept that. But that’s not an issue it’s how you ask the questions and what you do next that will help get get the most effective reference.

So what’s the first thing you do? First thing you do is you talk to your hiring company or hiring manager. What areas do they feel they’d
like some more clarity around? More often than not a hiring manager will say “you know what I wasn’t quite sure about” (let’s use sales as an example)
“Well I wasn’t quite sure about his sales leadership style does he really lead from the front?” So great you know that they’re the kind of questions that
you’re going to have to ask them in the reference. So a lot of people have 20 questions already laid out on a piece of paper. Quite frankly it’s not worth the
piece of paper they’re written on. If you’re just going to email that to somebody and say please fill this out, you’ve wasted your time. Pick up the
phone, talk to that person, ask those questions. Now you can you can ask those 20 questions if that’s what you want but it’s how you’re asking those
questions and remember you’ve got your clients area that he wants some some answers in. So ask the questions with a why. Why do you feel that is?

So you’ve asked a question – go back with another why. More often not people will start talking. Ask for examples. Ask them to clarify “so why do you feel he’s
a great salesperson? Know if you ask the question “is he a great salesperson” people are going to say “yes”. Well follow that up with why.
Okay because of ABCD. Ask them to give you some examples. More often than not they’ll talk about a sale or sales deal that the candidate was
involved in, which again will highlight to you how much of a sales person this candidate actually is.

You don’t have to get anything confidential from them. Make sure you let the referee know that you’re not asking for any confidential information. So continue
asking the why. When it comes to areas such as training or strengths and weaknesses again, most people will (especially when it comes to a weakness)
give you something very nonchalant. They’ll say “oh admin is no good”. Well that’s not good enough again we’re talking about a salesperson here and we’re
looking for a sales reference, so ask them for more clarity. Ask them well what do you mean admin’s not good? It could well be that you’ve got somebody who’s a
great salesperson but lousy at writing presentations and the person doesn’t want to say that. So again keep asking that why question and ask for examples.

Anyhow hope this helps. You’re never going to get the perfect reference, so don’t look for the perfect reference. But also don’t just email and ask them to
print out a form because that reference is just going to be an essay a question and answer and that doesn’t help anybody. As always would love to hear your feedback
so feel free to comment below. Thanks for taking the time.

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