Taking References for Granted: A Bad Plan

timtolan Recruiting, Tim Tolan, Working With Recruiters

Search assignments can at times be very difficult given all the steps in the search process. The time consuming steps include research, sourcing and the initial screening of qualified candidates. There is really not much you can do to move the dial on a search until you have a solid candidate pool to work from. Each step along the way has its purpose and you can’t skip any of the steps or take shortcuts. It never works.

Endorsement Once the candidate pool has been properly vetted, it’s time to prepare to present the candidates to your client. Before we go there, we verify credentials and speak to references who can vouch for Mr. or Ms. Right. That’s where the wheels seem to fall off for some candidates. Well, in some cases (OK) blow up in their face. Remember, these are the references they gave us. Go figure. That’s broken. Sometimes it can actually get worse – if the client decides to contact one or two references…oh well, you get the picture.

I can usually tell where we are headed if a candidate casually blows me off when I request their references. Sometimes you just know they don’t plan to put any effort into this critical part of the search. We coach – but refuse to hand-hold. They sometimes send a quick e-mail or leave a short voice mail message to let their reference know “someone” will be calling regarding a reference. What? That’s it? WOW!!!

No prep. No conversation. No idea who will be calling or what position they are interviewing for. No Nothing! No Way! WAY….That’s job search suicide in my opinion. Without a detailed conversation with their references about the specifics, the references they give us could blow (or has blown) all chances for a candidate to get to YES and an eventual offer. DUMB. Just plain DUMB. UNREAL. It happens.

Candidate’s need to contact each reference and:

  • Tell them why they are calling and ask them for their help
  • Explain the role you are interviewing for and some information about the company/culture
  • Ask for their permission to use them as a reference and discuss why you want this job
  • Tell them who will be calling and when (general time-frame)
  • Thank them for their help and promise to follow-up later
  • Follow-up and provide an update on the status
  • Send them a personal e-mail or a hand written Thank You card for their help

The reference step in the hiring process can sometimes be taken for granted by multiple players in the hiring process including the candidate. Make sure you do your part as a candidate, and you should have much smoother sailing to get the offer.

Tim Tolan is a partner at Sanford Rose Associates and specializes in Executive Search in Healthcare IT. He’s a closer, and you really don’t want to call him unless you’re ready to bring out the bazooka to bag some big game. When I started Fistful, I checked four references on Tim – his wife, his kids, his pastor and a client. The references were great, even if it sounded like they were reading from a sheet of paper. I just chalked that up to them being “detail oriented” in their feedback….