Building a Winning Business – Hiring Process Reference Checking


Building A Winning Business — Section: Hiring

Hiring someone is a highly human interaction. After all, it’s a matter of people coming together and making a decision to spend 40-plus hours a week together for an undefined period of time well into the future. It’s easy to let emotions, especially positive ones, tempt you into skipping your due diligence before offering a job to someone who appears ideal.

Here’s my advice: don’t let this happen to you.

  • No matter how impressive someone appears to be, you should always call his three most recent employers and ask questions that get the real story. Ask, “What did Bill do?” instead of, “Bill said he was a project manager who oversaw 20 employees. Is this true?” Open-ended questions ensure that you will get a more complete and accurate description of the candidate’s past job responsibilities and performance (some companies, however, maintain a strict HR policy of only confirming the dates of employment and the job titles a person had while in their organization).
  •  It also makes sense to get a professional outside assessment of your leading candidates. We spend about $300 per assessment, which provides us with an extensive overview of the candidate’s personality and allows us to decide whether the person will fit with our culture. Sound expensive? Think about the costs (both time and money) involved in a bad hire. Also, candidates are typically hired based on skill and fired because of personality.

Tom’s Takeaway:  “There are three places where you can’t always see someone’s true personality: on a first date, at church, and at a job interview. Increase your odds of hiring someone whose personality, values, and work ethic match your own by thoroughly checking him out before you extend an offer of employment.”

Thoughts Since the Book

A gated, defined hiring process is huge in building a solid organization.  A perennial discussion at Intertech is if our hiring process is too rigorous.  We’ve had candidates opt out because our process because it’s too long or involved.  I have counter thoughts:

  • It shouldn’t be easy to join an elite team.  Think Navy Seals.  The right candidates get this… along with having candidates opt out of our process, I’ve heard now employees state, “I knew this was a place for me when I saw how hard it was to make it through the hiring process.”
  • If we’re going to spend 1,000’s of hours working together, doesn’t it make sense to spend about 20 hours on the front end to ensure it’s a fit for both sides?