Reference check, anyone?

Reference check, anyone?

I question the wisdom of my friends in senior positions who without fail switch to plan B for hiring new staff. Handling volume of applications, short listing suitable candidates, and conducting personal interviews are tiresome set of tasks which may not lead to favourable outcomes. Why waste time and efforts if personal recommendation can do the trick, they tell me. With a moral obligation weighing heavy on such candidate, there is a greater chance for him/her to deliver results. There is some logic in the argument for sure!

It isn’t as if the conventional recruitment process has failed the test, but that the employers have mixed feelings on reference checks for hiring fresh faces. Often, hiring managers fall in love with a candidate on paper and then again in an interview, only to find out through a reference check later that none of their previous employers would ever hire that candidate again. At the other end of the spectrum are those who, despite a favourable reference check, turn out quite the opposite. Getting the right person for the right job seems pot luck!

So, where does this take us? There is no denying that references listed at the end of curriculum vitae are tutored to provide glowing reports on the candidate. To ride over such predictable outcomes, employers have now started switching to social networking sites to check on candidate’s outpourings and public image. What kind of people the candidate networks with; with whom the candidate is close enough and what kind of opinion he/she holds on general issues. Though it helps eliminate the weakness inherent in the conventional referral system, it becomes so watered down that it often falls short of credible conclusion.

I suspect the entire exercise is not as trivial as it has been made out to be. At the end, all potential candidates are but social animals and there is not much they can do to hide their behaviour, attitude, aptitude, aspiration and ambitions. There are surely people out there who would know their antecedents better, and who would be willing to share it for the sake of the candidate’s future. The challenge is to know who these persons could be and what kind of information one can seek from them.

After careful research I have drawn a list of resource persons who will do the honours. Here it goes — contact the maid servant for candidate’s gender sensitivity, check the plumber for candidate’s attitude towards people; meet the landlord for candidate’s aptitude towards others’ property; and the girl next door for checking on candidate’s aspirations in life. Interestingly, each of these references is available online 24x7.

For senior level hiring, however, I can’t resist recommending ex-boss’s wife and the candidate’s former driver as perfect reference checks!