Archive for April, 2014

Reference Checking – Best Practices

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

It may be the stickiest of wickets. A company wants to be sure that all of its employees are dependable and stable; yet due to liability lawsuits, they are unable to give proper references of outgoing or former employees. Whether the lawsuit regards damages from the actions of a violent or otherwise unstable employee, or a potential employee who has found that a former employer has given false or misleading information on a reference, the legal bills can be astronomical. Many companies have established policies that limit who can give references (usually someone in HR) and limiting what information is given. So, just how can one find valid and reliable information on a potential candidate? Unfortunately, there is no one catch-all answer. One must be prepared to try several different approaches, and that preparation must come long before picking up the phone.

The first approach is the most obvious: call the former employers and the references provided by the candidate. To accomplish this, have the candidate fill out a waiver that exempts the reference provider from liability, provided that all of the information given is true. Personal references can be very helpful in gauging a candidate’s reliability and their general demeanor. While it is true that personal friends may whitewash the truth to help out their friend, a long-standing friend may be willing to answer specific questions on their friend’s approach to work. When calling a former employer, try to talk directly to the candidate’s former manager. They are more likely to give you accurate and detailed information than someone in HR who may never have met the candidate.

Whether speaking to a business or personal reference, start with the basics and gradually move into specific behavioral questions as the reference provider gets more comfortable. Don’t shy away from questions that may lead to a negative response. After all, if a candidate is hiding something, you want to find out before offering them a job. So ask about the candidate’s general demeanor, their way of accomplishing tasks, and how they handle stress. When talking with a business reference, find out about the candidate’s responsibilities and how they dealt with them. Most importantly, ask about improvements that the candidate could make, and whether they would rehire the candidate. All of these factors will help you decide whether this candidate is a good fit for the position.

After you’ve hung up the phone, compare the accounts of both candidate and reference. Hopefully, they will match up on most points, but remember that the candidate has probably thought long and hard about their reasons for leaving a position, and their memory may be more accurate than that of a manager of a few years (and several employees) past. On the other hand, the candidate may have rationalized the situation, and that may have colored their recollections. Use your best judgment, and re-construct the situation as best as you can (this is the “Rashomon” situation we’ve discussed before!)

But what if you are unable to get anything more from an employer than dates of employment and eligibility for rehire? There are other options, both more confidential (and thus, more controversial). We’ll talk about those options.  Happy hunting!

Recruiters – How To Master Candidate Control

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

One of the oldest Hollywood stories involves a young Method actor and a veteran director. The actor asks the director, “What is my motivation for this scene?” and the director replies, “Your paycheck.” While the veteran director may not agree, motivation is an important element in making life-changing decisions. Discovering a candidate’s motivation is also a key to successfully placing a candidate.

The entire concept of candidate control is rather controversial. Some advocate a frank attitude where the recruiter tells the candidate that they’ve already been paid, they don’t care whether or not the candidate takes the position! Others have realized that a pushy, arrogant attitude equates recruiters with used-car salesmen. These experts recommend a nuanced, soft-sell approach built on a strong foundation of trust and empathy. The latter approach uses one of the salesman’s best tools: the probing question.

As noted in earlier editions of this blog, candidates can have any number of reasons for changing positions. Chances are that they have created their own mental list of irritants in their current position, and it is your job as a recruiter to identify those problems and provide solutions. Further, they may also have a list of requirements that a new job must fulfill, or they will just stay put. By showing empathy, developing trust and asking questions that address potential issues, you have the best opportunity to create a strong relationship with the candidate.

People love to talk about themselves, and it’s important for the interviewer to let them do so! A good open-ended question can get the candidate talking, and if the interview listens intently to what the candidate has to say, they can learn multitudes about the candidate’s motivations and their needs. The answers should lead to more focused questions which should in turn lead to a targeted solution. It’s hard to tell just when you’ve found enough motivations to move forward, but if the candidate shows second thoughts during the overall process, it’s time to probe some more. Keep in mind that some candidates may have deeply hidden reasons for not accepting a position. In one case, an excellent candidate called the recruiter to pull out of a promising new position. It was only from close listening that the recruiter discerned that there was a previously undisclosed family situation that made the candidate uneasy about relocation. The client had been suitably impressed with the candidate and adjusted their offer upward to make the transition easier.

So, in the long run, candidate control is about helping your candidates make the best decision for their career path, rather than forcing them into a position by pressuring them with tired lines about impatient clients who won’t hesitate to hire someone else. While such situations do exist, the skilled recruiter will find the way to resolve any candidate objections without making the candidate feel like they are being pushed into a decision.