You can never learn too much about your candidates during your talent acquisition process. From interviews to assessments and simulations, getting as a holistic view as possible of your potential new employees can ensure high performing hires with low turnover rates.
And there are many ways to review a candidate. One of the most popular methods to learn more about a candidate is to have them provide you with professional and personal references that you can contact and speak to one-on-one about the candidate in question. This gives you an opportunity to evaluate a candidate on different criteria such as work ethic, attitude, and personality, all from people and colleagues who know this candidate. This, in theory, should help you build a better idea of how well a candidate will perform at the position he or she is applying for.
However, when it comes down to how much you can really learn about a candidate’s performance, reference checks are one of the more ineffective methods.
How little? In a recent WIRED article by Laszlo Bock, Google’s Senior Vice President of Operations, the article notes one study showed only 7% of a candidate’s performance ability could be determined by conducting reference checks. This, as noted, is compared to up to the 55% you can learn from implementing assessments and job simulations.
That’s not to say that reference checks are unimportant. Using reference checks to answer questions you may have based on those assessments could be very helpful. For example, if a candidate scored low on an assessment that measures friendliness, your reference may be able to shed some light on the reason for why that might be – maybe the scores were inaccurate and the candidate actually is a very friendly person, or maybe the candidate performs well in other areas that negates friendliness. In other words, reference checks gives you the opportunity to get answers or clarity to questions that assessments may not be able to provide. This may still only surmount to a small percentage of the overall candidate, but it can be a very important perspective.
The important idea to take away is that, while reference checks are helpful, they don’t offer nearly as much value as you may think they do. The best solution is to not overemphasize the importance of reference checks – understand that you may get some additional insights on a candidate, but you won’t be given as thorough of an assessment as a personality test or a job simulation. One strong solution is to use these hiring assessments early in the process, and use reference checks to follow up on the results of those assessments to see how assessment scores compare to people who know the candidate well.
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Topics: Talent Selection Ideas