References have been one of the final steps of the hiring process for years. Managers wanted verification that the person they want to hire is as good as they think they are.
And who better to hear from than other managers?
Problems started to arise when managers were a bit loose with the material they shared like inadvertently giving confidential information about the candidate or the business.
Also, if a candidate did not get a role because of a bad reference, disputes arose and lawyers got involved. It was ugly.
At that point, HR in many companies created policies that prevented managers from providing references, only HR could. And because HR did not always know the person, they would only verify title and employment dates.
As always, there was a workaround. Candidates would provide the contact info for a former manager who was no longer at the company and not bound by reference policies.
Smart, career minded people stay in touch with corporate friends and allies for this reason.
You can be sure that the material from this “cultivated” group is going to be positive through and though.
Employers started to question the validity of these references. This saw the evolution of the “back door” reference. This is when you know someone who knows the candidate and you reach out to see what they are really like.
Although I see where this is seen as helpful, it puts us back to the bad old days of off-the-cuff references that are based on a general feeling as opposed to bona fide skills and experience.
I talked to one person who got her last job without providing references. The company no longer believed in them. They re- structured the interview process and started to use assessment tools. They felt that the information was much more useful and they felt just as good about their hires.
What’s your point of view on references? Pile of praise or pile of baloney?
2 responses to “The Reference Game”
References make sense from the outside, and I like giving them for great (former) colleagues and/or employees. Thing is, what I think is amazing is relative to my value/needs. Reminds me a bit of the time a girlfriend and I were comparing notes having dated the same man. She thought he was a terrible romantic partner, giving him a D- and I thought he was a solid B+ or A-.