The Topgrading “Truth Serum” NEVER Fails

Think of your career and all the people you’ve mis-hired because they had hyped their resume and faked their interviews. If all candidates had told you the whole truth, you know that costly mis-hires would have been avoided. Fortunately, the Topgrading “truth serum” is close to a “magic bullet.”

The simplest, most powerful Topgrading tool costs nothing and you can use it this minute to prevent costly mis-hires. It’s the Threat of Reference Check (TORC) Technique.

Sadly, some people think it won’t work. But it does! Almost always. And if you have any concerns about using TORC, this article should allay them.

In every Topgrading Workshop attendees learn what the TORC Technique is, but there are questions, questions which if not answered mean that they will not use this powerful method to hire better.

This article answers those common questions, the “yes, but” questions that managers have about TORC.

What is the TORC Technique “truth serum”?

Let candidates know a final step in hiring is for them to arrange reference calls with former bosses and others. That’s it!

WHY is TORC important?

You know that one of the most serious problems in hiring is dishonesty: weaker candidates fake their resumes and sanitize their interviews with hype, omissions, and deliberate falsehoods, and they get away with it because hiring companies rarely conduct reference calls with former bosses of candidates.

What are TORC Advantages?

The “threat of reference check” scares C Players away—good! C Players can’t get their former bosses to talk to you and C Players wouldn’t want you to talk with them anyway. Decades of experience confirm that high performers do get their former bosses to talk and are happy to make the arrangements.

TORC makes companies more successful. Really! In the 3rd Edition of Topgrading are 40 named case studies (from General Electric to small and growth companies) and the average result of Topgrading has been more than TRIPLING their success hiring high performers. Without the “truth serum,” the TORC Technique, those results would not have been possible.

How and when do you tell candidates about TORC?

Tell candidates at every step in your hiring process. Include it in the Careers section of your Web site, your application form, and part of the introduction to every interview. A Players will say, “Great, I look forward to arranging those calls.”

What is the shortest TORC explanation?

It was paraphrased above, but here is verbatim what many companies tell candidates live and in their application form: “A final step in the hiring process is for candidates to arrange personal reference calls with former managers as well as others we may choose.”

What is a more complete explanation?: “A final step in the hiring process is for candidates to arrange personal reference calls with former managers and others we may choose. There are three reasons for this:

(1) Your development. Candid insights of managers and others can be used to help you move smoothly into our company and can help you create a powerful Individual Development Plan.

(2) Verification. Discussions with former managers and others will add credibility to the information you have provided throughout the hiring process.

(3) Ease. It’s difficult for us to get former managers and others to talk with us, but high performers can arrange for those personal discussions.

Don’t many companies prohibit managers from taking reference calls?

Yes, but hundreds of thousands of former managers have taken those calls because they know there is zero risk that they would be sued by a former A Player employee for saying something negative and hurting the chances of the person getting the job.

Do candidates ask former bosses to be generous with praise?

Over the years we’ve learned—no! A Players would be embarrassed to try to manipulate their former bosses. And when you perform the reference checks using Topgrading methods, you’ll hear former bosses so openly talking about the candidate’s weaker points that you will conclude that you’re getting the truth!

Can candidates really get their former bosses to talk?

Yes. Since about 1990, thousands of managers have reported that candidates arrange the interviews and 90%+ of the references are actually willing to talk. High performers usually get back to the interviewers within a day, saying, “All seven would like to talk with you, and here are their available times and mobile numbers.” Easy—they do all the work and you don’t play telephone tag.

Who conducts the reference calls?

The TORC Technique is no idle threat. The two Topgrading interviewers, typically the hiring manager and HR, divvy up the calls, conduct them, compare notes, and decide if they want to offer the person a job.

But . . . won’t some former bosses refuse to talk?

Yes, but not many. Big companies, fearing that 50-year-old Charlie would sue them if he heard that his former manager bad-mouthed him, have standard policies: prospective employers must contact Human Resources, and HR will confirm employment dates and little else. But managers of former A Players ignore the policy.

What Are the Risks Using TORC?

None we know of. TORC has been used for decades, with hundreds of thousands of reference calls arranged by candidates, and there has not been one negative consequence we’ve heard of. Not one lawsuit. None.

Does calling it a personal rather than a business reference call enable a manager to NOT violate the company policy?

Note that we refer to it as a “personal reference call,” not a business reference call. You don’t know the difference? Neither do I, but in case a manager is criticized for violating company policy, the response could be, “Our company policy prohibits my taking business reference calls, and my former employee asked me if I’d take a personal reference call, which is different.” Although we’ve never heard of a former boss being reprimanded or even asked, “Why did you accept that reference call,” this could be the reason given, if asked.

But . . . aren’t we hypocrites if we ask candidates to arrange the calls and yet our policy is to prohibit managers from taking them?

Yes, but no one seems to care. And if you still feel like a hypocrite, blame the lawyers, make up a new lawyer joke, and hope maybe our society will become less litigious in the future.

But . . . how do you reference check candidates with their current employer?

If you pursue A Players who are happy in their job and not looking for a different job, they typically don’t want their boss to know they are looking, and won’t agree to reference calls with their current employer. A solution is to determine who has left the company that would be worth your talking with and see if the candidate trusts those former associates enough to arrange the call(s). High performers can almost always arrange a couple of calls.

Recommended Resource

Topgrading: 3rd Edition (in first week of release it became #1 Barnes & Noble best seller). The 3rd Edition of Topgrading was 100% written from scratch, with all sorts of practical innovations, and more than 350 bits of wisdom and advice from – Topgrading executives. An unprecedented 40 case studies of large and small companies provide insights into how they averaged more than tripling their success hiring high performers. Along with the book you receive a recorded webinar summarizing the most innovative and practical Topgrading methods and you can download a Manual showing how to implement them.

Published January 22, 2013

Scroll to Top