When you find an exceptional candidate for your promo company, you can take their resume at face value – or you can supplement it with reference checks. Taking some time to contact a candidate’s references can help you make sure you’re choosing the right person for the job. It helps to know from a previous employer, college professor or personal reference about the potential hire’s strengths and weaknesses, their work ethic and their skills.

Once you have a list of references, how do you evaluate them? Cheryl Hyatt, co-founder of Hyatt-Fennell Executive Search, says you should ask four questions to access all the valuable insight that references can provide. We outline her suggestions in this issue of PromoPro Daily.

  1. Who’s listed as a reference? You can get a sense of the candidate and the caliber of their work by first considering their list of references, Hyatt says. Did the applicant provide the correct number of references? Ask for three to four references unless you’re interviewing someone for an executive position, then aim to speak to seven to eight references. Hyatt says that if a candidate provides an overly long or conspicuously short list, it should make you question whether they can grasp a format and work within parameters.
  2. Were the references expecting your call? Most everyone knows you should never list someone as a reference without asking them first. Sometimes, though, job candidates take liberties. Hyatt says that if a reference has no idea why you are calling them, it should give you pause. You want a potential employee who is thorough in their preparation and considerate of others.
  3. Can the reference offer examples? When checking references, don’t just listen for whether someone would recommend the candidate – find out why. Try starting off your reference checks with open-ended questions like, “What was your experience like working with [Name]?” or “How would you characterize [Name’s] leadership style?” Then, you can dig a little deeper with more specific questions like, “Have you see [Name] handling a conflict with an employee or colleague?”
  4. Did they enjoy working with the applicant? The answer to this question can provide some great insight. People can learn new skills and systems, but if they create disharmony wherever they go, it’s not going to benefit your organization. Remember that you’re not hiring a lone employee, Hyatt says, but a member of a team. References are a great opportunity to ascertain collaborative skills and cultural fit.

What you learn in conversations with references can help you seal the deal – or move on to a different candidate altogether. When presented with a list of references, think through the questions above to pinpoint the perfect hire.

Compiled by Audrey Sellers 
Source: Cheryl Hyatt is co-founder of Hyatt-Fennell Executive Search. She has more than 30 years of management and organizational leadership experience.