How Recruiters Turn References Into Repeat Business

Smart recruiters use every possible touch-point to build relationships with their clients.

When you’re facilitating one of the most important decisions a leader will make, it’s a recruiter’s duty to share as much insight as possible at every step. Especially just before the final decision is made.

No matter how thorough a recruitment process may have been, there will always be lingering questions as the interview process draws to a close. Many of them will be questions that only a previous boss can answer, and a crucial few will cut to the very core of whether a candidate will be successful in the role.

This was the original intention of taking an insightful reference, but in the rush to seal the deal amidst shorter turnarounds and lower margins, the referencing process is often overlooked.

From my point of view, the referencing process is THE opportunity for a recruiter to cement a client relationship at the end of a search (whether the candidate gets the job or not). It is something that pitifully few recruiters do well, but it can leave an awesome impression. When they provide genuinely quality references for their candidates, recruiters go the extra mile to such an extent that clients will be falling over themselves to work with them again.

But what does taking an effective reference entail? What techniques can you employ to coax previous employers to open up about their people? What sort of reference is going to make a client think: “I want to work with this recruiter again! They really get me. They care.”

We've developed four key tips for taking better references in our guide "Taking Effective References", available for free at the Talent Titans homepage. It is practical, but at the same time, it will challenge a few preconceived ideas about the value of a personal reference in an age when the machines are taking over the sourcing process. Taking good references is something that they won’t be able to do as well as a talented recruiter: machines can verify records and send out questionnaires, but they can’t read between the lines and generate actionable management advice.

Recruitment is an imperfect science — we all know that — but if the right questions are asked (during a phone chat) at the reference stage, a client’s decisions will be informed by a new level of insight. Even just the intonations in the referee’s voice will tell their own story. Hiring managers are desperate to find recruiters who are willing (and able) to add value in this way.

Don’t get me wrong, many recruiters have the best of intentions when they request a reference, but there are so many areas where they could do better. Clients are sadly used to the standard stock responses, so when a recruiter is able to gain first-hand clarification on those nagging issues, they will rise head and shoulders above the rest. Clients like it when a recruiter listens to their concerns, and they love it when a recruiter can provide relevant answers. The candidate may not get the job, but at the end of what might have been an arduous search process, this last effort will live long in the client’s memory.

When you master the art of taking great references, repeat business is never far away. You'll have fewer fall-offs, your candidates will be more successful, and your clients will see more of your value as a business partner.

Download the “Taking Effective References” report here. I’d be happy if it makes a difference to your business.

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