As an employer, every time you decide you need to hire another employee you enter new territory.  Yes, you are willing to market and recruit for talent to fill that position that you know is necessary for a certain segment of your business to be more successful.

Yes, you are also willing to meet with interesting people whom you may not have had the opportunity to speak with before.  You advertise for the job, you start receiving applications, maybe screen some applicants over the phone, and you have a rough idea what type of person you need.

You know there’s a lot to an effective recruitment process, and you want to make sure that you avoid a poor hiring decision.  Your time is valuable and you also want to make sure you can continue to perform your own job well.

As an executive recruiter I thought it might help you, as a hiring manager, to share three reasons why job references can be a great screening tool.

Applicants Only List Positive References

That’s right. No surprise here.  So how do you really find out if the candidate is going to be a serious contender?  You know (or should know) that negative references could subject a former employer to litigation by an applicant.  I’ve yet to meet a candidate who knowingly lists references she knows will not provide positive feedback on her work history.

Here’s my suggestion: if the applicant represents that she is that qualified, ask her if she would contact each of her former employers and ask them to accept your reference call.  That’s right put the onus on them – at your first interview with them.

Employers Want To Be Honest Too!

Former employers want to help their former employees become more successful, so it’s a good chance that the employer who the applicant called will be open to discussing the applicant’s successes, challenges, and qualifications in earnest.  That is of course, if the applicant had a positive and progressive experience with their former employer.

If the applicant is clueless about his prior performance and willingly asks a former employer to speak with you, well, good luck to him on his career aspirations.

Applicants Who Are Serious Contenders Will Stick Around

Yep. If you ask your qualified applicants to contact their references early on in the application process, you will find out pretty quick who the highly qualified and unqualified candidates are.  The unqualified candidates will not want to open a can of worms (if they are smart) that they left with former employers, so give them an honorable out, such as: “John, if you are uncomfortable contacting your former employers to ask them to speak with me, just let me know and I will let you withdraw your name from consideration for the position.  Is that ok?”

When you conduct reference checks make sure you are thorough in your approach and in your questioning.  Respect the time that the former employer is providing to you, and make sure you get information that will help you identify if the applicant has the qualities and characteristics for your job, by asking the former employer about those qualities and characteristics.

Remember this cold hard fact when you start thinking that this approach could be a waste of time: 75% of hires are mis-hires!  If you can improve your success rate, is it worth it? If you want to speak with me about a more professional recruitment process, click on my calendar link to set up a quick chat. Thank you for your time and energy.