I served as a job reference for a friend last week, and I was impressed with the thoroughness of the 50-minute reference check. Some 20 questions were asked to probe every aspect of the applicant’s experience and character. When I advised my friend that I completed the reference check, she said my interrogation by the recruiter lasted longer than her interview with the person who would be her boss.
This experience underscores the importance of making sure you properly prep those who will be your references. Fortunately, my friend briefed me about the opportunity when I was asked to be a reference. (Note: always ask permission to use someone as a reference and tell them why you want and are a good fit for the job). In this case, the job candidate followed up our initial conversation with an email with bullet points about her strengths. Since it’s always asked in a reference check, my friend also offered up a couple of her weaknesses (too hands on, perfectionist) and how she’s effectively addressing those “issues”. An earlier post provides additional tips about references.
Responding to the question about how she hires, Dr. Gutmann said: “I am notorious at Penn among my executive team for warning people not to place too much emphasis on interviews. References, and what somebody has done, are more important than what somebody tells you in an interview. Well done is better than well said, and there’s no substitute for good referencing.”