How to Get Value from Your Reference Checks

woman on the phone taking notes

Last month, we published a blog entitled “Hire Better This Year with This Easy Topgrading Secret.” In it, we explained one of the key Topgrading techniques: Threat of Reference Check, or the “TORC” technique. In this blog, we’ll go more in-depth with how to make use of this technique to conduct valuable reference calls that will verify what candidates tell you and help you determine if they’re a good fit.

If you’re in hiring mode and for some reason haven’t used the TORC technique, we encourage you to try it! Tens of thousands of hiring managers have used it to packed their teams with A Players and enjoy more successful careers and lives. No one knows better than you that bad hires make it harder for you to perform. We at Topgrading want to help you get that monkey off your back.


Why are thorough reference calls so important?

It’s normal and ethical for candidates to put their best foot forward when applying to jobs, but sometimes it can be hard to tell when resume enhancement goes too far. It’s easy to Google how to write an impressive resume and how to answer interview questions (another reason why Topgrading Interviews are more revealing than standard interviews, but that’s another topic for another blog.

When you use the TORC technique, you inform candidates before even speaking to them that a final step in hiring is for them to arrange reference calls with the managers they have reported to. This technique has worked for over forty years to help managers like you hire better. Low performing candidates drop out because they know they won’t be able to get their bosses to speak with you – and they wouldn’t want them to.

Many companies prohibit managers from taking reference calls.

The managers are supposed to refer business reference requests to Human Resources, who then provide basic information, not performance appraisals. Companies fear that if managers say negative things about former employees, those former employees could sue.

The managers of A Players, however, will speak with you, because they know they have nothing negative to say and those A Players would never sue them or their company. Seyfarth Shaw, the employment law firm, has three times checked and has found no lawsuits stemming from any Topgrading methods.


Rarely, a candidate’s manager will refuse. In this case, simply ask the candidate to arrange a reference call with a boss who has since left the company and is therefore not bound by their former employer’s policies.

Another solution is to ask the candidate to tell their manager it’s a personal reference call, not a business reference call – and treat it as such. Instead of asking the former manager to rate the candidate on business competencies like “being a team player,” ask about the candidate’s personal qualities like “ability to get along with people.”

Reference Checking Passive Candidates

When your candidate still works at their current position, you might worry they won’t arrange a reference call with their current manager. Assure your candidate that a call with their current boss will not be requested until a job offer is imminent. However, the offer is contingent upon there being no surprises in that reference call.


With these tips, you are ready to arrange reference calls with your candidates’ managers (without phone tag!) and you’ll be able to verify what candidates tell you and feel confident in your hiring choice.

If you have any questions or doubts about these techniques, please reach out to me at [email protected] and I will personally get back to you.

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

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