Why do we always contact references in our recruitment processes? I have heard a few people saying that there is no use in using references, because the candidate will only give us references that they know likes them. This is probably true, but that does not make the references useless. The point of taking references is not to find someone who can say bad things about the candidate. So what is the point?

According to me, one of the most important things with references is to make sure that we have a good quality in our process. Taking references is something that we do at the end of the recruitment process. We have already done the selection of candidates, interviews with the candidates and personality/logical tests. So what we want do is to confirm the perception that we got of the candidate. We want to get an as good as possible understanding of the candidate. Therefore, we use these different ways of getting to know them. If the interviews, the tests and the references should not produce the same image of the candidate, then we know that something is off.

References is also a way to make sure that the candidates have worked where they say they have and that they have done what they said that they have done. Candidates tend to exaggerate their skills and accomplishments and then the references can give us a more balanced understanding of the candidate. Even though the person that we talk to likes the candidate, I find it very unusual that the person can’t come up with any weaknesses about the candidate.

We always do a 360 analysis of the candidate when we do the references. By that, we mean that we talk to one colleague, one manager and one that have reported to the candidate. This so we once again can get a broader and more nuanced understanding of the candidate.  It could be a good idea to ask the reference about how long they have worked together. If they have worked together for a few weeks or for many years makes a big difference in how well they actually know how it is to work with this person.

Because of this I think that references is an important compliment to the rest of the process. What are your thoughts on references?


Stockholm 2020-03-19

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