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Reference Checks: Don’t Overlook This Crucial Step

July 11th, 2014

No hiring process for a high-responsibility job should be considered complete without a reference check. But this final, crucial stage of the process can take time, and this exercise often provides managers with subjective, open ended data points that are difficult to measure and quantify and even more difficult to compare across a candidate pool. After all, most managers don’t get very much out of bland phrases like: “We never had a single problem with him,” or “She was great. Really great.”

So if you’re staffing a critical position and you don’t have hours to spare in exchange for vague, meaningless feedback, keep these considerations in mind before you abandon the process altogether.

1. One red flag can prevent countless headaches and regrets.

Nine reference checks out of ten may not provide game changing information. But the tenth may be worth more than gold. If your contact says something like “I’m not sure why he submitted my name as a reference”, or “She’s great as long as you don’t expect punctuality (or public speaking skill, or written communication skills, etc)”, then your time will have been well spent.

2. It’s okay to read between the lines.

Sometimes great management decisions come from the gut and can’t be easily quantified. If you hear something in your contact’s voice that you can’t even describe in words, let alone measure, that’s okay. A slight hesitation, a moment of confusion, or a genuine tone of enthusiastic, heartfelt support can shine a legitimate green light on the candidate or allow you to shift focus to another qualified candidate.

3. Word your questions thoughtfully.

Try to add meaning to the process by investing in your wording. Instead of a bland, empty question like “Would you recommend this candidate?” try something more focused, like “Which responsibilities should I hand to this candidate? Which tasks should I hand to someone else?”

4. A neutral answer (or no answer) speaks volumes.

If you find a candidate’s references difficult to reach, or in a hurry to end the conversation, take this into account. You’ll also want to scrutinize answers that aren’t answers at all, like “I can’t really say very much about him”, “I didn’t work with her on a daily basis”, or “She was a nice person…I can’t tell you anything about her technical skills, but she was pleasant enough.”

For more information on how to keep your reference checks valuable and efficient, reach out to the staffing experts at Merritt.


Don’t Become a Stepping Stone Employer

December 23rd, 2011

Hiring a new employee can be an expensive process, and once a candidate comes on board, the time and cost required to train her can put a serious dent in your budget. Factor in a temporary slowdown in productivity while she learns the ropes, and the dent becomes even more significant. After about six months with you, a new employee can represent a considerable financial investment. If she leaves at that point, your investment goes with her and you’re back to square one.

Candidates are likely to take a position with a “stepping stone” employer if they need a temporary paycheck but are ultimately looking for a more rewarding position elsewhere. They may also treat a company like a stepping stone if the company simply can’t keep up with their ambitions or offer them sufficient compensation in a competitive market.

This scenario can be frustrating, but it’s a very common part of the employment process, and it’s more likely to take place when hiring managers fail to ask the right questions during the screening process or fail to retain new hires who are too overqualified or ambitious to make a long term commitment.

When you decide to interview a candidate who seems overqualified, make sure you ask about her long term plans. Find out where she wants to be three, five and ten years from now. If you don’t have the resources to help her get there, tell her so upfront. And protect yourself. Even if she’s very talented, her talent won’t help you if she leaves in three months.

If you recognize a stepping stone candidate after the fact and realize that an expensive new hire is about to jump ship, find out what you can do to keep her in the fold. If you can’t raise her salary, try to find ways to offer the education and incentives that will help you make the best use of her skills and encourage her to grow within the firm.

If you’re having trouble with stepping stone candidates, contact a temp staffing agency in CT at Merrit Staffing.

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