The 2 References Provided by Your Sales Candidates? Throw them out.

Devon-McDonald by

Have you ever performed a reference check on your top candidates and thought to yourself, “What is the point of this? This is a waste of time.”? OF COURSE this reference that you are calling is going to give your candidate a glowing reference! After all, the candidate chose this individual because they knew he/she would sing their praises.

Today’s tip: Throw these references away.

As Rich Chiarello indicated in our recent Sales Execution workshop: “These are the two people that you actually DON’T want to call.”

Sounds like a bold recruiting move… right? Might seem a bit like you are going behind your candidate’s back. However, the reference check is perhaps one of the most critical pieces of the hiring process, and it can’t go overlooked. You need facts, and fluffy reference checks aren’t going to cut it.

At the expansion stage, you have too much to risk bringing someone on board who isn’t the sales rockstar that you were led to believe in the interview process.

…and, as we all know, sales people can put on a GREAT show during the recruiting process because they are so good at presenting — “selling” — their best qualities.

Want to cut right to the chase with reference checks for your top candidates?

The answer is simple: LinkedIn. And you’ve got a couple options:

  • Look through their listed connections to find people who they worked with previously
  • Look into any shared connections that you may have (might be a personal connection, and that’s okay, the questions you would ask them would obviously pertain to their character/drive)
  • Look into their previous employer’s company list, and find someone that may have worked in their department based on their title/job description

Once you’ve got someone that looks like they have a connection with your candidate,  send this person a direct message (if you have the capability), or an email if they include their address in their profile. This next tactic is a bit more aggressive, but you could also reach out to the person through their company’s corporate line to engage briefly over the phone.

(Be fair – don’t call into anyone at their current company. Obviously, you don’t want to put anyone’s current job in jeopardy by indicating that they are looking, and at the final stages of an interview process with your company.  You also may want to just let your candidate know that you may be calling into some  of your connections their previous company at some point in the recruiting process.)

Once you’ve got this LinkedIn member’s attention and they are open to sharing some details with you about your candidate, cut to the chase: describe his/her work ethic, the results that they achieved, how he/she fit into the organization culturally, and why he/she ultimately left the company.

Maybe you aren’t comfortable with this aggressive recruiting practice. And that’s fine. However, you will be seriously running the risk of hiring a dud if you don’t do some (extra) research about your top candidates before you extend them an offer.