Think Reference Checks are Overrated? Think Again!

April 17th, 2017

As you source candidates for an open position, review resumes, and conduct interviews, you rarely doubt the value of you endeavors. You feel confident that the time you invest in these activities will pay off as you narrow your options and hone in on the most qualified candidates in the pool. But when it comes to reference checks, you may feel differently.

Too often, HR pros and hiring managers eliminate reference checks altogether, assuming that the payoff just isn’t worth the effort, time, and social awkwardness that reference checks entail. But if you’ve weighed the cost and benefits and decided to skip the reference check process, reconsider. Here are some benefits you may be overlooking.

Reference checks don’t take long if they’re done right.

You don’t have to set aside an hour for a long phone call; just correspond by email. And you don’t have to allow a rambling discussion to consume your afternoon; just ask a quick series of concrete questions with easy answers. If you read between the lines, even a five-minute exchange can provide insight into how others feel about your candidate and the general impression he leaves behind.

References DO provide meaningful information.

Managers often skip reference checks because most references provide bland, non-committal, unassailable answers that won’t get them into trouble. But if you don’t let this happen, it won’t happen. Instead of saying “Did you like the candidate?” (of course the answer will be yes), ask something more pointed. Try: “Was the candidate consistently on time? What did she do best? If you had to provide a coaching tip for me, what would it be?”

References catch red flags.

Just embarking on the process can provide meaningful information. For example, if you reach out to a reference and your call is ignored or avoided, you can consider this a successful data-gathering mission. You never exchanged a word, but this non-responsive reference has shared a data point that you can add to a growing picture of the candidate’s profile.

References might give more than you asked for.

An enthusiastic, full-hearted, hyperbolic testament to the candidate’s abilities can be a powerful statement. If even one of your candidate’s references shouts her praises to the heavens, you can consider this a plus. These enthusiastic supporters can also tell you about accomplishments or proud moments the candidate herself may have omitted due to oversight or modesty.

Reference provide a point of comparison.

You may have two candidates with apparently equal technical abilities, in which case a reference check might provide a quick and immediate tie breaker. Make the calls and see what happens.

For more on how to conduct reference checks in an efficient, appropriate, and meaningful way, reach out to the Cleveland County professional staffing team at PSU.

Do You Have a Great Work Ethic? Prove it!

April 3rd, 2017

Most managers want to know three things about their candidates: Can they complete the tasks assigned to them? Are they pleasant and easy to get along with? And finally, will they work just as hard for the company as they would for an endeavor in their personal lives? In other words, will they throw themselves into their daily efforts and treat company success and personal success as if they were the same thing?

It’s not exactly easy to convince someone that you “work hard” or that you are “a hard worker”. We all use that term, but we don’t all agree on what it means. For some, it means an employee who stays at the office till midnight. But for others, it means someone who leaves at 5:00 sharp after accomplishing a long list of goals. How can you prove to your interviewer that your work ethic is above reproach? Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Know what the term means to you.

You can’t read your interviewer’s mind, so don’t try. Have your own definition of “hard work”, and your definition should be fixed and clear. You should be able to describe it to someone else, and you should know exactly how far your own actions fall from your ideal. If you believe hard work means staying late, that’s fine. If you believe it means trying again and again until you achieve a goal, fine. If you believe it means giving up quickly and revising your strategy, that’s fine too. Just know exactly what a “work ethic” means to you.

Tell stories.

Apply your own definition of the term, and tell a story (or stories) that illustrate your sense of hard work and determination. Tell your interviewer about the time you stayed in the office late to accomplish a specific goal. Or tell them about the time it took you a week to complete an important task because you wanted to do it flawlessly. Or describe the time you accomplished ten incredible feats during one five-hour workday. Start at the beginning, explain the circumstances and the challenges you faced, and talk about how you overcame them and triumphed through the power of hard work.

If they share their own definition, listen.

Listen to your interviewer and read their non-verbal cues. If they’re unimpressed by your definition of hard work (working extra hours), and they seem to place a higher value on leaving early after multiple accomplishments (efficiency, strategy, and focus), tune in. Change your tactic and emphasize stories and anecdotes that showcase your ability to get things done.

For more on how to show off your talents and pitch your skills during your interview, contact the Cleveland County job search and career management experts at PSU.

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