From the Desk of Brad Smart:
Job References Done Right are Still in Style

The April 26, 2021 issue of The Wall Street Journal ran the article, “When Job References Still Makes Sense Before Hiring,” and noted that they are a “less popular way to vet job candidates than they used to be”.  How unfortunate!  Reference checks done the right way prevent almost all bad hires.”

The big beef is that candidates provide references and always include people they know will say nice things about them. So why bother? The author, Krithika Varagur, a Harvard grad in English, is a career writer. She checked around and found that STEM companies say they can determine intelligence and technical skills without references. Huh? What about culture fit, honesty, work ethic, and ability to work with others?

She also reports, resume creators no longer even put “References available on request.” She then points out that a lot of companies verify resumes by checking LinkedIn profiles. Reviewing a LinkedIn profile (also created by the applicant) merely confirms that the candidate in their resume didn’t lie about dates and job titles and didn’t eliminate any jobs (where the person might have been fired). Not very useful information.

 A Better, Very Powerful Way: Candidate-Arranged Reference Calls with Bosses

 For over 40 years our clients have implemented reference checking this way: Candidates are told from the start of the process that a final step in hiring is for THEM to arrange calls with bosses and others you want to talk with (at the time of a job offer). The candidate knows from the start you’ll be speaking directly to their former bosses; the truth will be revealed.

Informing candidates that at a time they approve, THEY will have to arrange calls with bosses is a “truth motivator” that causes poor candidates to drop out. High performers are naturally forthcoming, do not hype successes, and admit their weaker points. And high performers love to arrange the calls, knowing their bosses will sing their praises… and truthfully will disclose their weaker points (we all have them!). This process has worked across millions of reference checks conducted by dozens of Global 500 companies, start-ups, and SMBs.

Conclusion: Are you tired of repeatedly mis-hiring people because you never learned why they would likely be low performers? Then don’t abandon reference calls; use the proven approach of candidate-arranged reference calls with bosses (and others); the Topgrading way.


Improve your hiring success with Topgrading. Our proven hiring process will transform your selection methodology so that you get better hiring results across all industries, including hiring HR professionals.  Our leadership and candidate assessment, tools including candidate arranged reference call will help you assess, hire, retain, and grow outstanding team members. Contact us to learn more!

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