Reference Checks are Underrated

Hiring is hard.

I’m sure anyone whose recruited before can relate.

My friend told me a story of a bad hiring decision he made. He’s a manager at an urban planning center hiring a summer intern and he was in charge of recruitment. He told me of one candidate he interviewed that left a great impression. So much so that he offered her the job on the spot.

However, on her first day of work, it was like a different person walked into the office. She fell short of expectations and turned out to be toxic to the culture.

My friend felt like he was hoodwinked.

This was not the girl I interviewed,” my friend moaned.

This is an example of a false positive in the interview process. False positive candidates can talk the talk, but can’t walk the walk.

On the other hand, some candidates are brilliant but don’t stand out in an interview, a false negative.

Making hiring decisions based solely on interviews is difficult. False positives and false negatives are common. Yet, hiring is one of the most important activites a company or organization can do. For early stage startups, hiring the wrong person can be an existential threat.

This is why it’s crucial to do reference checks. If you call a previous employer and ask for an honest opinion you can get more detail on how that candidate will operate at your company. Here, your not fooling anybody. But, alternatively is someone strongly vouches for them, then that’s a huge plus.

There are caveats to reference checks, maybe your boss was an asshole. Or maybe you didn’t enjoy your previous positon.

Nonetheless, I don’t think reference checks are done enough.

May 2, 2020

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