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The process by which you test the conclusions of the interviews

Go through all the selection steps, and the data collected about the candidate fits perfectly with the role and company culture. In your mind, you visualize the signed contract. You are tempted to skip the recommendations part and make the job offer right now.


Don't skip reference interviews!


After so many interviews and information collected about a candidate, what more could a few references tell you? Quite a bit.


If you skip the reference interview, you lose about 25% of the information you should know about a candidate. And these 25% could be the most important. A former employer provides validated information. However, many managers skip this step. Why? Partly due to resistance from candidates. On the other hand, due to time constraints. Many managers consider reference interviews a waste of time, and that is as true as it can be if you don't have a good process. However, the solution is not to skip the interview but to conduct it correctly. Execute the steps exactly as they are in the process to get the result.


Before the Interview:

  1. Choose the right people. Go through the lists of reference people noted during interviews and select those supervisors, subordinates, and colleagues who are relevant to you. But don't limit yourself to them. Contacts in your personal network are other sources of objective feedback. Where possible, ask for the opinions of people you know.

  2. Decide on the appropriate number of interviews (between 6-8 people is a good number). You can opt for a discussion with 3 former bosses, 2 colleagues or clients, and 2 subordinates.

  3. Match the source and number of recommendations with the role you are hiring for. For a managerial position, it is much more relevant to get feedback from the subordinates a candidate has had rather than from bosses. There are chances you will get more honest answers about how this person interacts, delegates, or gives feedback. For a sales representative, feedback from former clients is very important. And so on.

  4. Ask the candidate to contact these people and set up a phone discussion. Statistically, the chances are twice as high to have a conversation with someone if the planning is done through an employee.

During the Interview


We suggest using a set of 5 questions, very similar to those asked of the candidate in previous interviews. This similarity allows you to easily compare what you heard from the candidate with the answers you get from the references. The purpose of this interview is for you to test your conclusions and make the right decision about hiring the candidate. Integrate the questions into the discussion, don't make the phone call like a questionnaire. Otherwise, you might get the answers the reference person thinks you want to hear, not those that will really help you.


Alarm Signals


You've managed to set up interviews with people you consider relevant. They are open and provide detailed answers. However, there is still the risk of collecting irrelevant information that does not help you make the right decision. In general, people do not like to make negative evaluations about former colleagues or employees. Most speak in coded language when they think a person is problematic. And under the pressure of the need to hire, even some obvious clues can go unnoticed. How can you decipher what the interviewed persons do not communicate directly?


From experience, there are a few indicators that can guide you.


If a former boss/colleague only confirms some data, this is a bad sign. If someone truly believes that a person is talented, they will want to express that.


If the answer comes in the form of hesitations like Hmm or Ummm followed by carefully chosen words, it's a sign that you need to dig deeper. When someone gives a hesitant answer, they are probably trying not to portray the candidate in a negative light or not to take any risks. Neutral, general appreciation is another clue that the message about the candidate is, at best, ambivalent. The absence of enthusiasm is a warning sign. You haven't obtained a positive recommendation just because the words sound good. Neutral opinions are actually a code for bad references.


In contrast, a positive reference conveys strong enthusiasm and obvious admiration. There is no room for hesitation and evasion. The excitement and confidence with which someone speaks about a former colleague or employee are signs that you have encountered an exceptional candidate. These are the people you want on your team.


After the Interview

You have gone through all the stages of the selection process and gathered a lot of data about the candidates. All you have to do now is organize them and make the decision.

  1. Review the completed scorecards for each finalist candidate.

  2. Take into account the opinions of colleagues involved in the selection process and the recommendations received, and give a final score to each candidate.

  3. If you don't have any scores of 8, 9, or 10, repeat the process.

  4. If you have a score of 8, 9, or 10, decide to hire the candidate with the highest score.

  5. Remember the rule: Hire slowly, fire quickly!


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