“What am I likely to hear about you from the people I talk to about you?”
That’s was the standard question I asked potential candidates BEFORE I would do front door and backdoor reference checks. Then I would listen to hear what came back from the candidate.
I would hear one of two types of answers:
A. The “I’m perfect” answer.
The candidate would say everything about how great they are. Interestingly enough, this is not what you should want to hear. Or…
B. The “Here are all the flaws you are likely to hear about me” answer.
This is what you should want to hear. Any experienced candidate is going to have detractors.
And the candidates you want to hire have the self-awareness and the internal strength to know it’s okay to honestly admit their flaws.
Anyone with a little bit of experience understands that you are going to do reference checks.
You should ask candidates for three types of references:
A. A peer of the candidate, and…
B. A direct report of the candidate, and…
C. A manager of the candidate.
Then you should absolutely, positively, do backdoor reference checks, but…
You should let the candidate know what you’re going to do ahead of time. Being upfront gives you the benefit of being honest.
Also, by asking the candidate what you’re going to hear ahead of doing your backdoor reference checks, you’re giving the candidate the ability to frame the story and build trust with you.
Hopefully, the candidate will appreciate that you understand there are two sides to every story. And you are doing the right thing by giving giving the candidate the ability to defend themselves.
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