Ep. 9: Does Your Candidate Leave the Toilet Seat Up? The Importance of Checking A Candidate’s References

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Ep. 9: Does Your Candidate Leave the Toilet Seat Up? The Importance of Checking A Candidate’s References

Checking references is your goldmine for verifying a potential employee’s performance and fit for your job. In a reference check, you can learn more about what it was like working with your candidate, which helps you understand and determine if the candidate will be a good fit for the role, your business, and the culture of your company.

Transcript

Fletcher:

Hey folks. Welcome to our ninth episode of the Hire Talent’s podcast. Today we’re gonna talk about my favorite subject, reference checking, and Stephanie’s favorite subject, and wants to find out if those candidates leave the toilet seat up or not.

Stephanie:

Yeah, all the dirt on the candidates.

Fletcher:

Yeah, get down, get dirty. So I just tell people time and time again, if I only had one interview question to ask, it would be the reference checking interview. Brad Smart, Topgrading, they put together this interview question. I think it’s genius. I think it tells you 99% of everything you need to know about a candidate. Maybe I’m exaggerating, but it tells you a lot.

Stephanie:

It really does. Yeah, in one question, it really encompasses everything.

Fletcher:

Yeah, most of everything you’ll ever need to know about. Now, there’s all the details and the little things, check the boxes. Yes, you’ve gotta get those things done. But in terms of if I could just ask one question and then decide whether that person is more or less likely to be successful in my company or just in any role whatsoever, this is the best universal single question I can ask, so I ask it in the very first interview in order to do that.

Fletcher:

The other reason why the reference check question is so powerful is it also sets the tone for ensuring that the candidate knows that you are going to speak to their references, which then requires the candidate to be more thoughtful about all their future answers for the rest of the interviewing process, right?

Stephanie:

Sure.

Fletcher:

And helps ensure that they’re going to be more honest when they’re answering your questions.

Stephanie:

And it’ll weed them out if they’re not willing to give you a reference too.

Fletcher:

Exactly.

Stephanie:

Half the time.

Fletcher:

Yeah, exactly. No, so it immediately helps kind of shorten your candidate pool or your list of candidates, and it can do that quite quickly because yes, Stephanie said and we talked about in Episode Eight, if four out of five past supervisors won’t provide you a reference, then there’s something probably wrong with the candidate, time to move on, no need to spend any more time or effort or experiences with that person, just move on to the next one, right?

Stephanie:

Right.

Fletcher:

And if it’s the very first question I ask somebody, aside from the pleasantries, I can figure this out pretty quick within the first 15 minutes of getting to know someone.

Stephanie:

Right.

Fletcher:

Right, and then I can move onto to more important or other types of questions to learn more about the person.

Fletcher:

So ultimately, what are kind of the best practices? I want to set the stage as I’m starting to investigate people’s previous positions. Hey, where did you work? What did you do? What was your role? Tell me about that, and then who was your supervisor?

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative) or who you reported to.

Fletcher:

Yeah, who did you report to?

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Fletcher:

Right? What was their name, how do you spell it? What was their role or their title in the organization, context, how do you spell it? Deadly serious about speaking to this person, right, and will that person speak with me as a reference and share their experience about working with you. Yes or no.

Stephanie:

Very point blank.

Fletcher:

Now, you will often get the middle answer. The middle answer is most likely a no. If they give you a middle answer, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, and I will then ask them and push them until they give me a yes or no answer. There’s no in between. There’s no it’s against company policy. Great. It’s against company policy, so let’s overcome that objection. If I ask you to call your previous supervisor directly and to ask them or to tell them that hey, I’m trying to get a job and that my new potential employer would like to speak with you as a reference, would you, old previous supervisor, colleague, hopefully friend, you know, in some manner, some shape of being a friend, would you take five minutes out of your day to do me a solid favor and speak with this person? No matter what the person’s answer is, whatever their objection is, I go back to that. Put them in that scenario. Now what’s your answer, right?

Stephanie:

Right, or the other one that comes up a lot too, I hear you talking about this a lot, that they can’t find the person or they don’t know where the person is or they moved on or some situation where they’ve fallen off the face of the earth all of a sudden.

Fletcher:

Yeah, well my favorite excuse, my favorite reaction is so who was your supervisor in that position? Oh, it was Bob Smith. Great. Would Bob provide you a reference about the time that you two spent working together? Oh, Bob no longer works at ABC Company. Oh, that’s okay. That wasn’t my question. In fact, even better. Now Bob’s got nothing to lose. I don’t care if the person works there or not. I care about the person that you worked for, I want to understand their perception of your work performance. Whether they-

Stephanie:

Right, whether they work there or not.

Fletcher:

Whether they work there or not is irrelevant, right? It’s even better because then they don’t have to deal with the next objection, well it’s against company policy, but either one of those … so they don’t work there any more objection or we’ve lost touch objection, a fairly simple resolution. Hey, you probably have social media, you probably know somebody from your past there that knows somebody who knows somebody. If I ask you to track Bob down, do you think that you could pull that off and through any of the number of resources that are out there in this day and age, you could do that?

Stephanie:

Right. Of course.

Fletcher:

‘Cause I could do it. I don’t even need your help. I’ll just figure it out myself. We’re in the data business. We can pretty much get anybody’s contact information that we want to with enough effort.

Stephanie:

Yeah. The goal really is to identify if there’s such hesitation to it that even if the person’s deceased at this point, if they don’t follow that up with, but I could probably get a reference from another manager or somebody else who knew me or knew Bob Smith.

Fletcher:

Well, they do often do that, but they often try to steer you to who they want. Now, occasionally the person’s dead. I usually like to verify it. I Google the person’s obituary, but that’s me. I’m a little bit morbid like that.

Stephanie:

We’re serious about reference checking.

Fletcher:

I’m pretty serious about reference checking, yeah. Does the person have a significant other, wife or husband? Usually there’s somebody else involved with them. Would they provide you a reference? I sure go home and talk about everybody I know with my significant other. We all do. That’s kind of normal.

Fletcher:

So whatever the excuse is, overcome that objection. Put them in the situation where that’s not an option basically. Not getting the reference is not an option.

Fletcher:

Okay, once we’ve gained their agreement and hopefully we can do that quite easily, the next question is what should I expect that person to say about you and your performance while you worked with them? Let’s make it easy for them, okay? Great. You’re gonna get a pretty high level basic answer there. The more detailed it is off the bat, the better. Now, I don’t want them to ramble on and on, but this is where what we talked about in Episode Eight is so important. Who, why, what, when, why, why, why. Why are they gonna say you’re a good employee. Why did they think you were a top performer? What did they like about what you did? Who else did they feel this way about? So really digging into the details about what the candidate thinks that previous supervisor thinks about them. This is also a good sign of emotional intelligence. If they’re self-aware enough to understand how other people perceive them and to be able to articulate that in a meaningful way, that’s a very good sign. It’s not a great sign if they can’t, right?

Fletcher:

Then I can follow that up with a pretty simple question. On a scale of one to 10, overall performance, what is this person gonna give you? Let’s quantify what all this means. Words are fluffy and ambiguous, so let’s put a hard number on that, right?

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Fletcher:

And I can ask again why are they going to give you a seven or an eight or a nine? 10s are red flags. Usually 10s don’t exist ’cause they’re unicorns, right, so what are we going to do to … well, it’s just problematic in too many ways. Nobody’s perfect. Most managers don’t think people are perfect. The candidate themselves should give themselves a 9 even if the supervisor’s gonna give them a 10.

Stephanie:

Yeah, come on. Be humble a little bit.

Fletcher:

Yeah, exactly. Whatever the answer is, even if it’s a 10, I always like to ask what are they going to say you needed to do to get to the next level. How do you get from a nine to a 10, a 10 to an 11, heaven forbid that was their answer-

Stephanie:

Checking that, what, you’re verifying if they can be objective enough or take somebody’s else point of view?

Fletcher:

That and-

Stephanie:

Understand?

Fletcher:

And that if whoever they worked for, they should be able to understand the constructive criticisms that that other person had for them. Again, nobody is likely to be perfect, so they usually had some room for improvement, and they should be aware of that room for improvement from the other person’s perspective, not just from their own, and again, I really want to dig into the details. Well, how did that affect your performance? How did that affect you from being, or affect your success in that role, so not just take whatever the answer is at face value. I want to ask a couple of follow-ups. I want to understand the context of how that actually affected their career.

Stephanie:

Okay.

Fletcher:

So if I’ve gone through all of that, I shall have learned a lot about how that person’s performance was perceived. It goes back to is this person an achiever or not. Great references from previous supervisors, right, a top indicator of future success. Poor or no references from past supervisors is a great indicator of future failure.

Fletcher:

That’s all I got, guys. It’s super important. It’s difficult to do. You gotta practice it. You gotta go get the references once you’ve asked these questions, but that question itself is so telling. It’s half of probably what you need to know about a candidate in the hiring process. You can ask it right out of the gate, so our ebook on the reference checking concept, it goes into more detail, Stephanie wrote. It’s hilarious. You gotta check it out in our resource section of Thehiretalent.com, that’s The, T-H-E, hire, H-I-R-E, talent, T-A-L-E-N-T dot com. You can reach us at 833-332-TEST or 8372. Once again, 833-332-TEST or 8372. I look forward to connecting with you in the future.

Stephanie:See you next time.

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