3 Keys to Conducting Executive Reference InterviewsBy
In the Harvard Business Review article “The Definitive Guide to Recruiting in Good Times and Bad” author Claudio Fernandez-Araoz, lists the failure to conduct proper reference interviews as one of the three most common hiring mistakes made by organizations. Don’t leave out this vital step in the interview process. The best way to determine how a person will perform in your organization is to hear how they have performed in the past from former colleagues and supervisors.
A few years ago a faith based nonprofit organization in south Florida proudly announced the hiring of a new executive. Within weeks of the pronouncement, a local newspaper article detailed his resignation. The reason; multiple discrepancies regarding the executive’s background emerged soon after he was hired. Plainly, he lied about his academic background and his reasons for leaving his prior organization. Turns out there were serious financial integrity questions left unresolved by two former employers. It was a terrible embarrassment and one that easily could have been avoided.
How did this happen? The executive was well known within the same nonprofit circles the hiring organization traveled in. By all accounts he was charismatic, handsome and passionate about the mission. He interviewed well, names were dropped and he looked the part. I’ll bet he even had executive hair. So an offer of employment was made and accepted without conducting a thorough a background investigation that included reference interviews. We hear all too frequently about these situations.
To ensure wise hiring decisions are made we recommend thorough reference interviews of several former supervisors and colleagues. When recruiting a president or chief executive officer include former board chairmen on the list. To get the most out of reference interviews:
- Treat the reference like an interview. Plan the questions in advance. Listen twice as much as you speak.
- Ask behavioral oriented questions that provide insight into how the candidate has performed in the past with projects and people. (See our articles on behavioral interviewing.)
- Commit to making referencing a key component of the decision making process. Don’t make a decision until they are complete.
Richard Fairbank, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Capital One said it best, “companies that spend 2% of their time recruiting and 75% of their time managing their recruiting mistakes, don’t have the right people.” Invest enough time to conduct thorough reference interviews to ensure a wise hiring decision.
To request a complimentary list of sample reference questions for your next executive search email us at @theawpgroup.com">email@example.com.